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Scholarship program brings students to Canada

By Will Sloan

World University Service of Canada

Khin Yadanar Phyu (left) and Rahmo Noor joined Ryerson this year through World University Service of Canada’s Student Refugee Program. Photo by Clifton Li.

After a long journey that took them across the world to the heart of downtown Toronto, Rahmo Noor (originally from Somalia) and Khin Yadanar Phyu (from Malaysia) have just begun their first year at Ryerson through World University Service of Canada’s (WUSC) Student Refugee Program. When asked what they’ve liked most about Canada so far, it doesn’t take long for them to answer: “Everything,” says Noor.

“The fact that I’m able to study, and able to continue my education, and have a future,” says Phyu. “The environment is friendly and very supportive. We feel comfortable here.”

“The WUSC people are very supportive,” adds Noor. “You don’t feel like you have no help. There’s a way for everything.”

For more than 35 years, the WUSC Student Refugee Program has connected promising students to Canadian universities. The selection process is rigorous and only a handful of highly qualified candidates are chosen among thousands of applicants. The organization helps the students through training and education programs to prepare for their transition. For Noor and Phyu, who came to Toronto from Kenya and Malaysia respectively, the opportunity was a dream come true after many years of hard work.

“I saw people becoming WUSC scholars when I was in primary school,” says Noor. “I used to imagine myself among that group of people. That’s why I worked so hard in order to reach my goal.”

“For me, it was my parents always telling me that education is important,” says Phyu. “If you have nothing, education can put you in a place where you want to be. Since I was young, my parents really drove me to study, and they always supported me. Even when I had no hopes in Malaysia when I was a refugee, I had this passion to learn.”

Since 2010, nine students have attended Ryerson through the Student Refugee Program, which is supported through a small portion of Ryerson student fees.

Emma Jankowski, international student advisor at Ryerson’s International Student Support, is supporting the students’ transition. “Being a displaced person presents challenges that can be insurmountable, however, Rahmo and Khin have defied the odds. Due to a variety of socio-economic factors, it is even more difficult for young, displaced women to pursue their education, so we are particularly grateful to have them join the Ryerson community. The SRP is a huge benefit for the WUSC scholars, Ryerson and the people supporting the WUSC scholars,” says Jankowski.

“We learn a lot from the WUSC scholars, as well as they learn from us. The Ryerson WUSC local committee, led entirely by students, provides an opportunity for hands-on settlement support to those with interests in social work, immigration and social justice.”

Noor is currently studying biology and chemistry, and Phyu is studying biomedical science. Both plan to pursue careers in the medical field after graduating. “Ryerson is conducive to learning, so it will be a smooth journey,” says Noor. “With the help of the WUSC staff, ISS and the Ryerson team, we’ll be able to transition and finish our degree.”

From left: Adela Zyfi, Director of the SRP Program; students Khin Yandanar Phyu and Rahmo Noor; Emma Jankowski, international student advisor at International Student Support; and Dana Dwaik, WUSC Ambassador. Photo by Clifton Li.