Canada Through My Eyes

CTMEThe "Canada Through My Eyes" contest showcases the unique perspectives of international and exchange students as newcomers to Canada who will share their personal experiences through writing, poetry, and art.  

The Lakehead University community is invited to vote on their favourite submissions.  An interactive display will take place on Monday, November 14th from 10:00 AM - 2:00 PM in the Agora (Thunder Bay Campus) and on Tuesday, November 15th from 9:00 AM - 12:00 PM in the Learning Commons (Orillia Campus) where you can vote in-person.

Throughout International Education Week (
November 14 - November 18) we invite the Lakehead community to use the online voting form linked below.


The winners of this year's Canada Through My Eyes writing contest are #4, #8, and #11 - congratulations!

Submission #1
IEWAcademic Program: Visiting Research Student
Home Country: Colombia

Canada...a country of contrasts
a mix between past and present
a cold place inhabited by people who love warmth
a land full of sunlit mysteries 
and lakes that stretch to infinity

Submission #2
Academic Program: Masters of Computer Science
Home Country: Bangladesh

A Bangali Girl’s Experience in Canada: The Good and The Bad

I stepped into Thunder Bay on September 16th and the city greeted me by losing all three of my luggage bags! After living with no luggage bag for five days, I started working at a store close to my home and then got fired with no warning after two weeks! Also, the SIM card I bought didn’t work at all on my brand new phone and I had to buy a second-hand phone just to call!

Clearly, it has been nothing but FUN since the moment I came here. 

Sarcasm aside, my journey in Canada has been quite hectic and insightful so far with brand new challenges coming my way every week that I can learn from. It is also my first ever escapade to a country other than my homeland Bangladesh which makes the experiences all the more adventurous. 

From my very first day, I have been savoring the beauty of Canadian autumn where the trees bear shades of yellow, orange and even red! Its public transit system is also quite superior to my home country in terms of timing and seating arrangements. Most of the people here are kind enough to do random things for strangers like holding the door and carrying the grocery bags.

While I do miss my country, I found many good people here from different ethnicities who have widened my spectrum of cultural knowledge. Additionally, the Bangali community here has always helped me with critical suggestions regarding employment, accommodation and winter clothes. 

So, even though the beginning of my journey has been a little bumpy here, I look forward to spend two years or longer in Thunder Bay and learn as much as I can from all it has to offer.

Submission #3
Academic Program: Masters of Education
Home Country: India

“Transitions in life can offer opportunities for discovery.” – Robbie Shell

Transition is never easy and this transition for me was huge and totally worth it. I still remember the day I landed in Canada with my spouse and 7-year-old daughter. I had big dreams and believed that this country will help me in accomplishing my dreams. The journey was not smooth. It was a rocky ride that made me stronger, more independent and more confident. The initial days were not easy and we had difficulty in settling with the weather, food and being away from home. Finding basic things (that were basic in my country) was difficult to find here, especially Indian food. I am a vegetarian and getting vegetarian food was a challenge in the area where I live. It was a whole new experience to get into the Canadian system of being self-independent and be able to do everything on my own from cooking, cleaning, and taking care of my daughter, her school, and my job and with all this also manage my studies. It is overwhelming, but the people of the country never disappointed me. I always felt that this is a country of international-minded people who welcome people from all regions and accept and respect diversity. Diversity and inclusion have always been a priority for this country and my professors, colleagues at the workplace and friends have made me believe the same. The joint efforts of the university and immediate guidance whenever required helped me settle and overcome that difficult phase of my life. It has been six months now, and I am proud to share that this country has offered me a lot. I could manage to have a good blend and balance of my personal and professional life. Initially, it was difficult to manage my schedule but everything seems to have fallen into place. I have time to do all household essentials with my job, studies and time for my leisure activities too. Below is my original composition of the song which I aim to launch someday. This was written in my initial days when I was a little depressed and wrote while travelling in the subway. Though this poem is a little depressing but is true for the new students to this country. But one must never forget that every cloud has a silver lining and good days are coming soon.

"Look at my face What do you see
A smile? a dream?  reality? 
Different names, different pains
Different colours, still the same
Lights in lights out and I'm passed out
Get down next stop still in self-doubt
Looking strong nothing's wrong just hiding pain 
Standing alone inside these crowded trains

Said I wanna go and look I'm here right now
Things are not working out & it's a fight now
Mom called and I said I'm doing fine now
But I know bet she knows that I'm lying now
I was crying then but I'm trying now
Would have left this piece of bread but it's a crime now
Might have used a different word just doesn't rhyme now
Here it comes, gotta go
It's time now

And when the night comes
Feel just like heart burns
Is this a city, self-pity I'm coming to terms
Cold in my chest dressed in my best
Lessons are learned time to confess
Could run just sideways bet it's a long chase
Feels like I'm running all the time inside a maze
Where Lonely nights follow your busy days
And busy days swallow your dream chase
Feels like only the rich can afford the sun
It's so much harder to find a friend than a gun
From a distance seemed so much fun
Could find all that I wished but no U-turn
Looking strong nothing's wrong just hiding pain 
Standing alone inside these crowded trains"

Submission #4
Academic Program: Masters of Electrical & Computer Engineering
Home Country: India

The land and the sky. With new hopes and motivation, I flew to this land; though far away from home, it felt homely. Landed among the roaring clouds, welcomed by the thunderstorm to the land of the free. At first, the land looked all slushy full of mud and warehouses, but then it felt like home. From sleeping on just the bedsheet to sleeping in a full bedroom, it felt home. From eating bread and banana to first full feast at the gurdwara, it felt home. Walking in this land feels like home, with the sky my roof.

Although full of smart people, absurdness sometimes shadows this country’s system. From crazy rents for the broken houses to wondrous tuition fees structure, it sucks for its survival like the abundance of natural resources and proximity to USA is not enough for its survival. But, worry not, it justifies everything while giving back. Just look at the beautiful medical system, it only takes a little over eight hours at the hospital to get checked while you wait there in sheer pain.

Defining new freedom, this world teaches to be scared of free people.

The Internet has made the world small and hence snatched away the experience of feeling cultural shock. It felt like the town was full of NPCs, but with time the NPCs changed to known faces and some then to companions.

Every newcomer knows their why but still, they ask themselves why they came, why they left their home. It was an alienating feeling seeing everyone missing their home. Everyone working hard, counting on their dreams; While me far away from my goals, looking for the lost trails in the blurry shore of my academic ocean. With barely passing exams and completing assignments, getting expelled is a constant thought of fear. Unaffected by this sword on the neck, I am gambling my life away.

Land of the free, run/ruined by the new settlers. This land is cold but feels warm.

Submission #5
Academic Program: Media, Film & Communication
Home Country: Vietnam

I first arrived in Canada in early 2020, right before Covid-19, so I did not have much experience traveling within Canada. Recently, I faced several challenges since I was so busy with school, work, my internship, and at the same time, dealing with the stress and loneliness of my friends leaving and moving away. 

Fortunately, as my old roommates and friends moved away, I get to live with 3 amazing girls and we practically do everything together. We went to Canada Wonderland and went on roller coaster rides on a rainy day, which was a very painful experience if you ask me, but the whole experience was remarkable, I had so much fun. This is the highlight and my favourite memory during the time that I spent in Canada.

Submission #6
Academic Program: Masters of Science in Management
Home Country: China

Attracted by the natural views, I made up my mind to move to Canada, a wonderland with mountains, lakes, forests, and especially the fantastic northern lights. When I drove from Tronto to Thunder Bay in September, I was shocked by the scenery along the way, and this added to my expectations of the view in Thunder Bay. And significantly this small, calm city surrounded by the lake and rounded hills came up to my expectation. 

Whenever I liberate myself from courses and assignments, I can't stop my step from chasing the start light, enjoying the silence when the land is enveloped in a curtain of darkness and the sky is lit up by the stars in Sliver Islet, Little Trout Bay, Chippewa park, etc. I can easily find Mars, Orion, and the Galaxy flowing over their head after the clouds fly away. And thanks to Lakehead, I also unexpectedly encountered the northern light by the end of October, which touched me beyond words. 

Submission #7
Academic Program: Masters of Education
Home Country: India

It has been an enriching experience so far. Undoubtedly, it is entirely different from what I learned from the google search. Somehow, I feel that google didn’t know as it never had the experience of experiencing the information. Practical experience enlightens you far more than just the written words shared. 

The moment I landed in the country of opportunities “Canada”, I instantly could feel the positive welcoming energy around me. The first expression was the feeling of gratitude for the universe which planned it out so well that I could not even feel my feeling of thankfulness would be sufficient. It had been wonderful till now. Without a doubt, Canadians are the most polite and helpful people in the world. Whether going for a leisure walk or losing my way to the grocery store or even facing confusion about commuting to university. There is always help around the corner and that too with a wide smile and an extremely polite voice. On top of that, some locals, blew my top, by offering help to drop me to my destination. It was an unimaginable courtesy I experienced but definitely worthy memory. Canada helped me know the importance of simple greetings – good morning, how are you, thank you, see you soon, take care. Imbibing these simple greetings gave me the vibrancy and strength to face the challenges.

It is surely in the air of the city. Giving a beautiful smile and exchanging greetings gives a positive kick-start to the day ahead. My transition to the open, accepting Canadian culture was marvelous. It felt that a caged bird’s dream came true with its cage let open and it is ready to fulfill its dream to fly limitlessly. 

My landlady and her family turned out to be the best people I could ask to meet in a strange country. She not only helped me with buying cheaper groceries and winter clothes. She even took me on a short tour of the city. It was the undying caring nature and appreciative people around me that I enjoyed Thanksgiving and Halloween. it was an incredible unfolding of life I never ever dreamt would fall into my lap. The unethical biases prevailing all around the world about same-gender relationships felt humiliating. It helped me widen my horizon of living life and develop acceptance of the way of life one chooses for oneself. People say struggles make you sour and bitter but I guess Canadians make an extra effort to make it a worthy positive learning experience. It has been guaranteed learning of how to live life by following simple courtesies.

Submission #8
Academic Program: Masters of Education
Home Country: China

Canada Through My Daughter's Eyes


She believes that the national flags are different, comparing the maple leaf flag in Canada and five-starred flag in our motherland; 

She believes that the trees are different, we can see real maples, pines or aspens in the forest, where squirrels will come out for curiosity;

She believes that the weather is different, in winter it will snow, the snowflakes will turn shining under the sunshine;

She will see that people living here are different, with different colours of hair, eyes, and skin;

But she will know that we are all living with our neighbours in harmony, no matter what language we speak, or what species we are. Because we are different, but in fact we are not different.

Submission #9
Academic Program: Visiting Research Student
Home Country: Brazil

There is a Brazilian song that says that when we are in love we can promises in a cloudy day the sun, if sun comes out, or the rain, if the rain dropped.

That is how I am feeling about be in Canada. I am in love and appreciating the uncertainty of a white cloudy day like in Geraldo Azevedo's song. His song perfect fits for the last drop of autumn in Thunder Bay under the eyes of a International Student that was come from a tropical country.

Submission #10
Academic Program: Masters of Education
Home Country: Sri Lanka

It was my huge dream to come to Canada as an international student. I came to Canada last May with my family; my husband and my three kids. When we came to Thunder bay Airport, we found that our five six bags were lost. The officers in the airport were really helpful for us to make a complaint about our bags. Then we came out of the airport and got a taxi. The taxi driver was a nice and friendly person. He gave us a warm welcome to Canada and Thunder Bay. He explained about all the places we passed on our way and he gave us information about the city of Thunder bay. He helped us unload our baggage too. My first impression of Canada was that the people in Canada are nice, friendly, and helpful. The biggest challenge was to find accommodation. We had to stay in a hotel for 13 days till we found a rental house. I met a nice Canadian lady, a retired teacher, while we were searching for a rental house. She became a friend of ours and helped us a lot. After finding a house I felt kind of settled. I enrolled my three kids in a school and the teachers and administration staff of the school welcomed us so gladly. I never expected such a warm welcome from them. When I came to the university I got the same feeling. Everyone in the university was really helpful and nice. I should specially mention that the people in the library, the people in the LUSU office, the ones who are in the student international, the ones who are in the food pantry, etc were nice to me, and their warm welcome and guidance were appreciated. They helped me to feel that I am not alone here in Canada and I felt that my people are around me. I registered for zoom and web-based courses in the first semester. It was difficult for me to understand some words which were pronounced by the professor in the zoom class. I understood that it was because the Canadian accent is new to me. I clearly remember that I could not understand the word 'article' when the professor pronounced it. It took two-three days for me to clarify the word. I am totally fine with Canadian pronunciation and the accent now. I faced a hard time at the beginning of October. My three kids were suffering from influenza and two kids were admitted to the Thunder Bay Regional Hospital. The service given by the doctors and nurses was commendable and immeasurable. They were kind and gentle. And also they are dedicated. I am grateful to them. I noticed that Canadians never ask about other people's country, race, religion, caste, creed, etc. They treat everyone equally. I never experience or felt any discrimination. According to my experience, the HUMANITY of Canadians is in a higher position. I am doing my studies well here and leading a happy and simple life.

Submission #11
Academic Program: Honours Bachelor of Commerce
Home Country: India

Whenever someone asks me to talk about my experience in Canada, this is the first thing that pops up in my head. I remember it was the first day that I arrived in Orillia, and I wanted to get some essentials for which I walked to Walmart, which is 40 minutes away from the campus assuming that I can just get an Uber on my way back, at the time, I did not know that Uber did not work in Orillia. So, I went on my walk as soon as I arrived in Orillia from India after 5 days of traveling since it was in the middle of the pandemic. Thankfully, I got to Walmart and found everything that I needed and by the time I got out of Walmart, it was already 11 at night. And there I was standing desperately trying to figure out why Uber was not working with 10 bags in my hand outside of Walmart at 11:00 at night, I even considered just walking off with the cart, so that I could get back on campus somehow. At that moment I decided I'm going to hitchhike, and I looked around me to see people getting in their cars. I tried my best in that moment to see someone who looked the safest and I found this couple that was putting their stuff in their car. I eventually walked towards them with my hands full of stuff and asked them if they could drop me off at Lakehead? I honestly don't know what I was thinking in that moment considering anything could have happened being in that sort of vulnerable position. But as soon as I asked the couple if they could drop me off, they generously agreed and after I put my stuff in their car and got comfortable in the back seat I had a moment of panic, I could die, I could actually be in great danger right now. But before I could even act upon that thought, the couple got in the car and turned on the radio. This is where the most absurd thing happened, the radio started playing an awfully specific viral song called “Kolaveri di” from a small regional part of India, and I was just sitting there scared, kind of relieved but mostly confused at the turn of events. I asked the guy; ‘how come you know the song?’ and it was as if the guy went from 0 to 10 in terms of his excitement. He turned around and ask me how I know this song and I told him that I'm from India and this is a very popular song back home. He then went on to tell me about how he is a history student and that he is studying Indian history and he eventually got into Indian, Tamil music, and that this is one of his favourite languages from India. Eventually, they safely dropped me off at the campus and even helped me get all of my stuff into the building and I have never seen them again but now I have this story to tell for the rest of my life.

Submission #12
Academic Program: Bachelor of Mechanical Engineering
Home Country: Vietnam

By the time this essay was written, it has been almost a year since I first landed in Canada. And moving alone from the other side of the glove has presented me with many things I had never expected. To begin with, nothing could have prepared me for the bitter cold winter gales that never seemed to stop howling at the airport the night of my arrival. And those winds have somewhat cemented my initial expectation for my time in Canada. I have always been prideful of my English proficiency and understanding of more western cultures, but having spent all of my life up to that point in a country that spoke a different language, had completely different sets of social norms, etiquette, and even down to the most basic perception of the world, I braced myself for a rough start. I intended to shell myself, to “protect” my integrity and identity; I had envisioned a new life with only myself in the picture. And I couldn’t have been more wrong. The friends I made during my stay on campus, my classmates I met in our first few hybrid courses, and even chance meetings in coffee shops and grocery stores, have all treated me with utmost respect and hospitality. My origins, beliefs, and worldviews, have never been used as a barrier against me by those I have made acquaintance with. And at least for me, it was never my “integration” into Canadian culture, but more so an “addition” to the cultural space I have now. I never had to dismiss any of my cultures to blend in, but I got to bring my uniqueness into a canvas of vastly different colors. For myself and others that I know, a sense of curiosity has persisted in our friend groups, instead of xenophobia, I got to indulge myself in interest and inclusivity. In conclusion, Canada is a place colder than all I have been blessed to set foot on, with snow that can build up past my knees, and snow storms in which I could barely see the car parked in front of my house. But in contrast with the snow, the warmth of hospitality and openness is sure to melt even the strongest of cultural barriers.
Submission #13
Academic Program: Masters of Computer Science
Home Country: Iran

I wrote the poem when I was feeling very sad, and alone. I painted the painting when I was deciding what to do with that lonely city, as I was feeling that wayat the time. Transitioning to a new life, a new place, and leaving behind the one you had is not easy. Especially if you face people who not only don't want to help you but go to the extreme of hurting you. As I have widened my circle of friends, I have found, you can find good and kind people everywhere. You just must be willing to use that kindness to guide you through the journey which is hard for all of us. And be thankful along the way. Let's help each, even a few kind words will go far. There is enough heat for all of us. There is enough warm.

Smile a bitIEW
Begin the day 
Begin within
Buy a drink 

Smile a bit
Sit in the corner
Of the streetLook at the sun 
Offers a drink,
Pours down the heat

My drink is blue 
The sky is blue 
The river is blue 
Why am I blue?

Begin the day 
Begin again 
Today, a day, 
My love, dear 
Smile a bit