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St Mary’s University: Where international students get to make a difference

Gorba Bhandari and Rabea Tariq want to make more than a living. They want to make a difference, and they’re off to a flying start as commerce students in the Sobey School of Business at Saint Mary’s University in Halifax, Nova Scotia.

“I am very proud of what I have accomplished so far,” says Gorba, a Computing and Information Systems major who comes from the city of Ludhiana in India’s Punjab state.

“Friends in other schools in North America complain about the lack of opportunities. That is something that I have never experienced.”

At 22, Gorba is already an inductee into Saint Mary’s University’s Order of Entrepreneurship. He is also a student member of University’s Academic Senate and the elected Chair of the Board of Directors for the Saint Mary’s University Student Association.

“In the first year, I was working at the Tim Hortons’ coffee shop on campus and the former chair of the Board would talk to me while I filled his order,” recalls Gorba. “One day in the hall he approached me and suggested that I would make a good representative on student government. I don’t know what he saw in me, but there’s no way that would have happened in a larger school.”

After graduating from high school in Ludhiana, Gorba had considered completing his post-secondary education in Australia, but his parents pushed for Canada as a safer option.

“I liked the idea of Nova Scotia and I was impressed by what I had read about Saint Mary’s,” says Gorba. “When I told my parents I’d be studying in Halifax, they didn’t know where it was, but they were very relieved.”

“My family didn’t know much about Nova Scotia either,” says Rabea, a 24-year old Finance and Marketing major from Karachi, Pakistan. “Until my mother came to visit me here and saw how safe Halifax is, she would call me about 20 times a day. Now we’re down to once or twice.”

Rabea was also drawn to Saint Mary’s by the university’s reputation and the prospect of smaller class sizes and greater opportunities in a medium-sized university.

“I come from a very large city,” she says, “and I know the pitfalls of life in that kind of fast-paced environment. My parents told me that studying in a smaller, more nurturing setting would allow me to spread my wings and fly.”

Majoring in Finance was an easy decision. “I love it,” says Rabea with a big grin. “It never feels like work when I study for Finance.

Marketing was another matter.

“I had no plans to pursue marketing,” she explains, “but my first year marketing professor called me aside and told me I had a natural talent for the subject.”

Looking back, Rabea sees that professor’s interest and guidance as a turning point that led to a deeper involvement with the business school and a better sense of her own potential.

“Saint Mary’s really gives you a chance to shine,” she says. “If you have a skill or a talent, someone here will see it.”

Like Gorba, Rabea has received several generous scholarships and bursaries that offset the cost of her education. She also supports her studies by running an on-campus tutoring service and working part-time with Saint Mary’s Admissions and Recruitment Team as a Student Ambassador, assisting with international student recruitment by sharing her experience with visiting guidance counsellors and prospective students from all over the world.

“I feel very proud to have been selected for this position,” says Rabea. “Students have told me that they came to Saint Mary’s because they heard me talk and liked what I had to say.”

With graduation looming, Rabea looks forward to returning home, but hopes one day to return to complete an MBA.

Gorba, who is one year away from graduation, is also contemplating graduate work at Saint Mary’s.

“I consider Halifax my second home,” says Gorba. “For my first two years here I couldn’t afford to return to India to celebrate holidays with my family, but I was never alone. For every holiday here I had a new family.”

“There is nowhere like Halifax,” says Rabea.


• To find out more about studying in Canada, visit www.canada123.org.

Posted: Jun 5, 2013

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