Oct. 11, 2023Print | PDF
When Jaimin Shah crosses the convocation stage at Wilfrid Laurier University’s Waterloo campus in October, the international student from Kenya will celebrate earning his degree, gaining valuable employment experience, and the many friends who helped him on his journey.
“It was probably my greatest four years,” Shah says of his time at Laurier. “I have met so many new friends that will probably be with me all my life and have met many different people from all over the world. I came to this country barely knowing anyone, but it was easy to settle in at Laurier because of how friendly people are and how everyone is always willing to help.”
Shah, who recently completed requirements to earn a double major undergraduate degree in Biology and Environmental Studies, came to Laurier from Nairobi, Kenya. He decided to pursue studies at Laurier after attending an international university fair while in high school.
“When my parents and I spoke with the Laurier representatives, we felt a sense of belonging,” says Shah. “They gave us so much attention and explained everything about the university, academic life, co-curricular activities and community at Laurier.”
Shah enrolled to study Data Science, but during his first semester decided the program wasn’t for him. With help from an academic advisor, he transferred to Biology and Environmental Studies for his second year.
During his time at Laurier, Shah took part in the university’s International Student Work Experience Program (ISWEP), an on-campus program offered through the Career Centre that provides opportunities for international students to develop skills and gain work experience.
Through the ISWEP program, Shah worked as part of Laurier’s International Recruitment and Partnerships team. After an initial semester of work, his contract was extended twice. In addition to his work through ISWEP, Shah also served as an instructional assistant in Physics under instructor Hasan Shodiev.
“Hasan helped me throughout my time at Laurier,” says Shah. “Even if it wasn't about physics, he would be there to support me if I had any questions. He was my mentor throughout my four years. I also give a lot of credit to the International Recruitment and Partnerships team for helping me along the way, especially Joanna Moore.”
Outside of academics, Shah was involved in intramural soccer and served as a member of Laurier’s Shinerama committee, which raises funds in support of Cystic Fibrosis Canada.
“I tried to be as involved as I could because there is only four years of undergrad and I wanted to try it all,” says Shah. “I met so many people who shared the same passions as me.”
From January to September 2023, Shah completed an internship as an environmental risk assessment intern at Canadian Nuclear Laboratories in Chalk River, Ont. The eight-month contract was not part of his studies, but an opportunity he credits to his time at Laurier, including help from the Career Centre with resume writing and interview skills.
“The position involved preserving the ecosystem around Canadian Nuclear Laboratories,” says Shah. “It’s a nuclear site and there are contaminants in the soil. What we were working to do is prevent those contaminants from entering nearby bodies of water.”
Following the internship, Shah returned to Laurier to complete a single credit he required to graduate. He says he’s excited to receive his diploma during fall convocation and is aiming to acquire permanent residency and pursue a career in Canada.
“It’s been a long, hard journey and I really worked my socks off to get to this point,” says Shah. “It’s not easy, especially doing a double major and working part-time or full-time, but it feels so good to finally get here. When I look back, I can see how hard I’ve worked and how my hard work has come to fruition.”
Shah says that studying as an international student did come with challenges. But with help from Laurier, including the university's international student orientation program, they were challenges he was able to successfully overcome.
“Cultural difference was one of the biggest factors,” says Shah. “Life in Canada and North America is completely different than how life is in Kenya – how people talk to each other, the work culture, it’s all different. The cultural barrier was big, but it was easy to overcome because of the people around you and the support you have at Laurier.”