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The journey to success: An international student story

By Sarabeth Castro

Canada has a large population of international students due to the high quality of education at many of its post-secondary institutions. According to Statista, there were more than 530,000 study permit holders in Canada in 2020. Before the COVID-19 pandemic took place, more than 640,000 student visas were issued. At NAIT this semester, there are over 1400 international students from 82 countries.

There are a lot of inspiring stories of international students who studied in Canada and how it has transformed their lives and shaped their futures. But of course, living in a foreign country is not always glitter and gold. Studying abroad may be challenging, and embracing new things can be scary. Students must be resilient, especially when studying in a country with diverse cultures and backgrounds.

An International student like Thi Thien Huong, also known as Tris, also had a difficult adjustment when she moved from Vietnam to Canada in 2015. She decided to study in Canada because she saw great potential for her career. She was encouraged by her sister, who helped her to study and migrate. It was not easy for Huong at the start as she had difficulty due to the language barrier and cultural differences, but she managed to overcome these obstacles. 

Photo provided by Thi Thien Huong

Tris is a NAIT alumnus and graduated with a diploma from the Chemical Technology program. When Huong was a student, she was very involved in the international student community. Huong now works in Interface Fluidics, a Calgary-based laboratory service company with a nanotechnology platform for optimizing oil production and visualizing fluid interactions through rapid chemical testing at reservoir temperature and pressure. Huong is responsible for analyzing oil samples.

 Huong humbly expressed that she is better than yesterday and still needs improvement. “I learned and am learning from people. They can be coworkers, friends, or even someone I meet at the bus station. Always looking for a better version of myself is my motivation to succeed,” Huong added. 

“Success is overcoming fear and getting better tomorrow,” Huong said. 

As part of Huong’s success habits, she loves asking questions to learn and improve. “I used to focus only on studies, but later on, I realized that social activities are also necessary to develop career and personal growth.”

Huong also mentioned that a career change was one of her most challenging decisions. “As I moved to Alberta, I knew that Biology [wouldn’t] be my advantage compared to Chemistry, but I did, and I am glad [because] it was a good choice.”

 Huong mentioned that NAIT played a significant role in her career advancement due to the program’s friendly and helpful instructors and community. Huong also added that NAIT’s International center helped her quickly adapt to the new life in Canada and make lots of friends with whom she still hangs out with. 

Aside from her mantra “Believe you can, and you’re halfway there,” a quote from Theodore Roosevelt, Huong also shared that the best advice she can give to all international students of NAIT is to network. 

“Networking is valuable not only at school, but also after graduation. There are so many opportunities out there, but it depends on you to get [them].”

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