By Saima Asad, June 2, 2017 —
The World University Service of Canada (WUSC) club is sponsoring two refugee students to attend the University of Calgary for the 2017–18 academic year.
WUSC is a nation-wide organization that supports students in refugee camps from around the world. Shahum Chaudhry is the U of C club’s co-chair.
“It’s an organization in Canada and essentially what they do is they help sponsor students from refugee countries around the world to come study in Canadian post-secondary institutions,” Chaudhry said.
The club has brought two students to campus every year since its inception in 1986. So far, they have sponsored students from Kenya, Malawi, Sudan, South Africa, Rwanda and Thailand.
The U of C and the Students’ Union sponsor the refugee students through donations and student fees.
“The university pays for their first-year classes and their residence fees,” said Student Refugee Board co-chair and S U vice-president operations and finance Ryan Wallace.
A portion of all students’ optional $10 SU donation goes towards a restricted fund for the refugee students.
“Full-time students pay $2.25. Part-time students pay a dollar. Essentially, that fund goes into the restricted account for these refugee students,” Wallace said.
Chaudhry said the application process isn’t easy.
“It’s a really rigorous process,” he said. “They have to write a bunch of essays and obviously submit their grades.”
Students must also take English language tests and prove they lived in a refugee camp for several years. The national branch then coordinates with the campus club to select two students.
“WUSC takes the selected pool of applicants that they’ve chosen and they send a list of applicants to each post-secondary institutions across Canada,” Chaudhry said. “For the U of C, every year we get about eight to 10 potential applicants and then we choose them based on criteria that we have listed out.”
The club has sent this year’s selections to WUSC and is awaiting approval from the national branch.
Once the students arrive, WUSC assists them with everything from course registration to finding accommodation after their first year of residence and grocery shopping.
“In their first year, our goal is to facilitate the integration process,” Chaudhry said. “They’re completely uprooting their lives and coming to a new place and they have no idea what’s going on.”
Chaudhry said the club aims to help the students become independent throughout their degree.
“Our ultimate goal is by the end of their undergraduate, they’re fully independent and we’ve fully integrated them into Calgary,” he said. “I think the biggest challenge is you have to respect the students’ boundaries because we want to be there for them 24-7, whatever they need, but we don’t want to push them.”
Janvier Biziyaremye is one of the two students WUSC accepted in Fall 2016. He has finished his first year of nursing at the U of C and wants to establish a clinic in Calgary. Biziyaremye is originally from Rwanda and lived in a refugee camp in Malawi since he was five. At the camp, he and his family couldn’t work. His education ended at a Grade 12 equivalent.
“WUSC was my only hope that I had,” Biziyaremye said. “It’s been quite an experience.”
More information about WUSC can be found here.