In conversation with american first-year students

Words by Georgia lin

Photos by Hana Nikcevic

In the wake of President Donald Trump’s demagogic administration, there has been talk about influxes of American students who wished to flee to Canada in the hopes of getting away from irreparable identity politics and dangerous far-right ideologies. Having immigrated to the United States and subsequently to Canada, I’ve felt deep distress and anxiety about Donald Trump and the GOP’s discriminatory policies since the election. In “Trump’s America,” minorities and immigrants live in fear: white supremacy and xenophobia are no longer ostracized beliefs. I was curious whether Trump’s presidency impacted the post-secondary directions of American students. I spoke to three first-year students from different regions across the United States about their choice to attend UofT, what it means to be an American living in Canada, and their thoughts on U.S. politics today.

Gil

Hamel

Which state are you from? Did you have any connections with Canada before coming to UofT?

I’m from New Hampshire. My dad is Canadian; he’s from Montréal. I’ve visited Toronto a couple times a year since I was born, but I’ve never lived here before.

Why did you choose to come to UofT instead of a post-secondary institution in the U.S.?

I grew up in a pretty small town, so going to a huge school in a big city like Toronto was appealing to me. UofT could be a city of its own, compared to where I’m from. Canada has a reputation of being a nice place to live, but most of what brought me here was less “Canada” and more “Toronto.”

Do you think coming from a small town has influenced your perspective on Canada?

I think it’s coloured my perspective in that I’m so appreciative of being in a diverse place like Toronto. It’s cool to see the city as a nexus of people from all over the world—I find that fascinating. I think I would have had a hard time finding a school in the U.S. that is a mixture of anything like UofT. The concept of being bilingual is also not as prevalent in the U.S. There’s an old joke: “What do you call someone that speaks three languages? They’re trilingual. What do you call someone that speaks two languages? They’re bilingual. What do you call someone that speaks one language? They’re an American.”

It’s the idea that the U.S. is one of the few countries where you can be totally fine being monolingual. But I think that’s changing.

Did the instability of the United States’ current administration affect your decision to come to Canada?

Frankly, no. I’ve been planning on coming to Canada for years. The current administration isn’t necessarily something I like, but I didn’t feel terribly unstable where I lived. I think there are people for whom the unstable administration is a threat to how they currently live their lives and I would never discount that. I was fortunate enough to not be one of those people.

How do you see your academic and professional paths going forward as a young American student currently studying in Canada?

I honestly don’t know. I plan on going to grad school, [most likely] in Canada. I want to go into translation studies; it’s not a common programme that’s offered by schools in the U.S, but it’s much more prevalent in Canada as an officially bilingual country. Another option I’m also considering is a U.S. government programme called the Peace Corps. I tell people that my intended major is Spanish, but I’m not sure if that’s going to stick around. Foreign language, generally, is my area of study, as I’d like to be an interpreter. There are three main branches of interpretation: medical, legal, and conference interpreting, like working the United Nations. You cannot understate the value of interpreting for people who need their stories told through translation.

 

Vibhuti

kacholla

Which state are you from? Did you have any connections with Canada before coming to UofT?

I’m from a suburb outside of Seattle, Washington called Bellevue and I was born in Vancouver.

Why did you choose to come to UofT instead of a post-secondary institution in the U.S.?

UofT being a prominent research institution is awesome, and there’s lots of research going on that I want to get involved in. Also, getting to live in a very urban area with a lot of resources and things going on is really cool. There’s an overwhelming sense of welcome that exists in Canada that many parts of the U.S. just don’t have. The city of Toronto is very diverse, and it lives up to its reputation.

Did the instability of the United States’ current administration affect your decision to come to Canada?

It definitely was not the deciding factor for me. I had my sights set on Toronto and Canada in general before Donald Trump was elected, but I feel a little guilty. It feels like I’m running away from something instead of staying there and fighting the cause. When I’m at home, I’m obsessively checking the news to see what’s happening, but being in Canada feels like I’m in a bubble. I’m almost shielded away from the politics, but also understanding that these policies will affect me when I’m back in the U.S. It’s odd because I’ve never felt more American since I got here. When I’m in America, I’m “the Canadian” even though that only means I have Canadian citizenship. Being in Canada has made me very aware of how American I am.

Do you think that as a woman of colour you would have been affected by Trump’s politics, had you gone to a school in the U.S. instead of UofT?

Most definitely. People of colour in America do not feel safe. With my privilege of financial stability, it’s something that I don’t think about every day, but it is scary. There is a lot of anti-brown resentment where I come from because there are a lot of people of colour where I come from. Microsoft and Amazon are based out of Washington and they have a significant amount of Asian and Indian people earning high incomes, which then causes a sentiment of anti-immigration. I do, however, want to go back to the U.S. for medical school to study to be an obstetrician-gynaecologist.

How do you see your academic and professional paths going forward as a young American student currently studying in Canada?

I think I’ll definitely come up with a different perspective versus my American counterparts because interacting with Canadians who have varying mindsets is very different than interacting with Americans. It’s interesting to live with people who are so culturally similar but so different otherwise. I intend to major in Human Biology Global Health with minors in Women and Gender Studies and Psychology because I have a strong love for reproductive health and a passion for sexual education. I want to able to take my love for science and apply it in a way that helps people who don’t receive enough resources.

 

 

Liam

Austin

Which state are you from? Did you have any connections with Canada before coming to UofT?

I’m from a pretty small town close to Orlando, Florida. I visited a couple times a year before I came to UofT, since all of my family is Canadian and I have dual citizenship.

Why did you choose to come to UofT instead of a post-secondary institution in the U.S.?

Part of it was being able to move and explore a new place that I’ve never lived in before, and it was also hard to find schools in the U.S. that matched exactly what UofT had to offer. It was a good personal fit for me. The international outlook and prestige of UofT was difficult to beat, at least compared to the schools in the area where I’m from.

Did the instability of the United States’ current administration affect your decision to come to Canada?

Yes, it did. It wasn’t the driving factor, but it definitely did play into my decision to only apply to Canadian schools. Not only UofT specifically, but knowing that I wanted to move out of the U.S. because things were politically unstable.

Do you think your education would have been affected by the current policies had you stayed in the U.S, or do you think you have an element of privilege that protects you?

 I do think I have enough privilege that I would’ve been exempt from the way I saw my peers being affected by the election. It’s hard to say whether or not it would’ve been different, because I don’t know what it’s like to go to school in the United States.

How do you see your academic and professional paths going forward as a young American student currently studying in Canada?

I’m planning to study economics, and I plan on staying in Canada after I graduate which is part of the reason why I chose UofT. Going to school in Canada gives you an edge to get hired in Canada, as opposed to being from the U.S. I’m also interested in working with NGOs in the future to build economic infrastructures in underdeveloped areas.