Harpreet Kaur is 22 and a new student in the CultureWorks ESL program in London, Ont.
She is also the only current CW student from Punjab, a state bordering Pakistan in the heart of India’s Sikh community. Punjab, itself, has two-thirds of the population of Canada.
Starting in Level 6, Harpreet’s English is good, her personality vibrant, and her ability to make friends easier than most.
All was well, you would think, especially with her older sister living in London as well.
However, there was a large “but” when she first arrived for her ESL school. It was something you would not have guessed talking to her six weeks after she came to Canada.
Harpreet felt homesick when she first began to study English in Canada
Despite that million-dollar smile, she was no different than any other international student leaving her or his homeland to study English in Canada.
“When I arrived here, for approximately one week, I was just crying,” Harpreet said. “I just wanted to leave Canada and go back to my home country.
“But my sister and brother helped me a lot to be here. I think my sister and brother held me every time, explaining the benefits of being in Canada.”
It was a huge help that her sister Prabhjot Kaur Malhi, 34, is in London and her brother, Jagpreet Singh Sidhu, 30, lives just down the highway in Peterborough, Ont.
Harpreet is now part of the London household.
“I feel very comfortable because my family is here, because my siblings are here. So that is a great moment when I go with them for an outing.
“It is great for me because we get together after a long time of five to six years of being apart. Didn’t spend much time with them. It’s a good time in Canada for me.”
Originally, Harpreet was just coming to Canada for a visit, but her sister was quick to point out the advantages of staying put and working on her education.
“My sister said I could do some study in Canada, then she actually told me about CultureWorks. She organized everything for me because I didn’t know anything about Canada. It’s my first time here.
The other piece of the puzzle that led to solving the homesickness involved the CultureWorks English for academic purposes courses themselves.
One of Harpreet’s CultureWorks teachers, Linda Beckley, says the newcomer from India is an outstanding student, “willing to take risks.”
“At the very first time, I just felt very awkward, but when I met with my classmates, and met with my teachers, I felt they were very friendly, because they all respect me and I respect all of them,” she said.
“So I didn’t feel any awkward moments with them. I just felt very comfortable with them in class. It is a good time for me.”
Harpreet wants to follow her older sister’s university path and that involves Brescia University College, where her sister now studies.
Harpreet has many goals for after her English for academic purposes courses
“I want to pursue further study in my field. I just want to get admission in bachelor of food and nutrition program because it is my dream to become a dietician.
“That’s why I am very eager to get into that program and just put all my efforts into becoming a good dietician in Canada.”
She said she would like, however, some help with the weather. The London spring has not been suitable for Canadians, let alone guests from Asia.
“When I arrived here, there was too much cold. That’s rough for me to survive in too much cold because I am not used to this type of weather. But the people are very friendly.”
Harpreet said she will miss India.
“There are lot things we can do with our friends. In India, there is education, there is entertainment, there are religious places, and there are historical places which we can visit.”
She acknowledges there are challenges, however, in every country.
“The environment … obviously in India. Pollution is a big problem and water, air. Mostly air pollution causes many types of problems. Health diseases like bronchitis, asthma.
“These are the challenges and that’s why we live in Canada.”
And that is where her smile now rests.
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