Tayef Ahmed immigrated from Bangladesh to Canada to pursue his studies. He said that he was planning to study abroad, and while researching different places, Tayef felt that Canada was very welcoming and it was a good attraction for international students from across the globe. Thinking about the economy, programs of study, and future potential of him settling down, Canada was his top priority for his undergraduate studies. Tayef is now studying at the University of Regina. Besides being a full-time student, Tayef works as an Executive Director at a nonprofit in Regina. Tayef also has a very important role at COR; he is the Executive Services Coordinator — performing support to the COR Board of Directors.
Before joining COR, Tayef heard about COR from some of his friends who was working at COR. He shared that he honestly never thought of working at COR since his field of study is completely different than what COR does. However, a colleague of his at the U of R asked him if he was interested in a part time board secretarial position, but never mentioned the organization. She then passed Tayef’s information to another person who was connected with a COR board member who then passed his info to Amanda. Tayef was excited about the position and felt it was a great opportunity to work for COR’s Board of Directors. “Within my portfolio, I like the fact that I get to assist the senior management and the board in making important decisions for the organization,” said Tayef.
Tayef also appreciates the culture at COR and he feels a sense of belonging. The best thing he likes about COR is how welcoming it is. “To me the philosophy of gentle teaching is to see someone as a complete human. Gentle Teaching makes you understand how to think and treat others with dignity and respect” mentioned Tayef.
The immigration process was something that Tayef always looks back as a learning opportunity for his personal growth. “I was a 19-year-old student thinking about moving to a new country far from home. It was not an easy decision” mentioned Tayef.
He shared that it even got harder when he started doing everything on his own. He struggled with preparing all the required documents and filling out the application forms. Some of the things that he had to go through to prove himself as a genuine applicant were unreasonable in his opinion, but he still felt obliged to follow the instructions given by the Ministry of Immigration and Citizenship Canada. “It was stressful, but an experience that shaped my future so I regret nothing. From applying to university, to receiving the confirmation of visa, it took me about 7 months” said Tayef.
Tayef’s biggest culture shock was actually our city – Regina. He shared that he loves everything about this treaty 4 territory, but his expectation was it would be a bigger city. Also, pretty much everything was different than what he anticipated. “I was young and open to learn new things, so that open mindset helped me to integrate easily” mentioned Tayef.
The weather was another culture shock for Tayef; he had to be patient and persevere through the challenges the weather was throwing his way. It was not just the weather, rather Regina is not very accessible in winter. For example, waiting for the bus, grocery shopping when it is so cold has been difficult for Tayef.
Tayef also shared that since he was a full-time student, his focus was on his studies, and that’s where he experienced some struggles. Apart from that, managing finances— accommodating high expenses were some of his daily struggles. “When I look back on those days, I reminds myself what it took to be where I am now. There were days I walked and waited for a bus for over an hour in minus 40 degrees. There were days that I could not afford to buy a coffee; and there were years that I could not even think of being outside of Regina for vacations” shared Tayef.
Tayef connected with community and felt included because of his decision to volunteer in the community with different non-profits, and he shared this has helped him meet many people.
In 2019, Tayef also started a nonprofit on his own called “You Should Garden”. Tayef was motivated to start a community garden at the university as many university students are affected by food insecurity and “there are a lot of students in poverty and they are not getting enough food to eat,”Ahmed said. Tayef organizes Regina Seedy Saturday, a yearly event for gardeners to buy, sell, and exchange seeds. He actively serves on nonprofit boards, including: The Heritage Community Association and The Carillon Newspaper.
Tayef also shared that he would have loved to know the history of this country and all about Canada’s past treatment of Indigenous people before coming here. “My first 6 months here, I was pretty ignorant toward the Indigenous people because I knew nothing about them, nor about Canada’s past whatsoever. My learning journey started with a class— INDG 100— that I took during my second semester. I would like if every university made an Indigenous Studies class mandatory for all international students. It would be incredible.” said Tayef. In 2019, Tayef suggested the U of R add this in their Academic Plan.
Asked whether he would choose Canada all over again, Tayef admits that he is not sure. He shares that with the recent tuition increases and considering the overall economy, it would have been a hard decision to make. However, Canada would have likely remained his top priority.
Tayef does not miss anything in particular in his country of origin. He shares the Canada feels like home to him. “During my first and second year, I somewhat missed some of my friends and the fun I had with them. My family travelled/lived abroad so I did not get to spend much time with them; otherwise, I would have probably missed them. I know that some people miss the food and culture; but I just feel the multiculturalism in Canada fills all of my needs” shared Tayef.
Asked about where he finds himself in 5 years and he said that he wants to be in a place where he can make a positive impact on more people’s lives and by being in a position where he gets to serve people.
Thank you, Tayef, for choosing COR and for making a difference in our organization. Your achievement and contribution to the organization is something we are proud of.
Written by Joana Valamootoo