Tarique’s experience at Wilfrid Laurier University
IAM Tarique Plummer. I am a third-year BSc honours biochemistry and biotechnology student at Wilfrid Laurier University (WLU), located in Ontario, Canada. Born and raised in Windsor Castle, Portland, and a proud St Mary High School alumni, I had never been to North America, nor had I even heard of WLU until I started my research.
It all began at the end of August 2012, after I received my Caribbean Secondary Education Certificate results. I knew that matriculating to my school’s sixth-form programme was a must, but I was looking further down the line. I wanted to attend a university overseas, not because of how I might be perceived when I say I am studying abroad, but simply because I craved international experience, independence, a new environment and culture, the possibility to start anew and, most of all, I wanted to expedite my selfactualisation process.
I chose Canada for three primary reasons: favourable immigration laws, quality educational system and a reputation of being quite welcoming and safe. My dilemma was that I had no family in Canada and I had never been there before, so how would I know which university to attend? Therefore, I viewed the rankings and, based on academics, student involvement, experiences and reviews, I identified over 35 schools (at the top, middle and bottom of the rankings).
My solution was to be as annoying as possible. I called, emailed, Skyped and even sent letters to the schools with questions on top of questions. I did this because I wanted to be seen and treated as an individual with potential rather than just a student number or dollar sign. Some schools really seemed to have become annoyed since quite a few stopped responding to me, but the one which never stopped and even called and emailed me when I did not expect it was Wilfrid Laurier University. As a result of that, I said my search was over and I decided to attend a school I had never heard about in my life, in a country I had never visited. Thankfully, they made the decision easier when they offered me a scholarship for my years, although it was still tough convincing my mother.
First year was interesting, in a good way. The culture shock was significant, but I woke up every day with the mindset that I would learn something new, but only in the classroom. The academic part was challenging; it required time to develop an efficient approach. The social atmosphere was exactly like I had seen on television about students in North American universities, so I felt like I was in a movie. The culture was so different from Jamaica’s, as the society is more individualistic and relationships are more on the surface, so adjusting to that took time as well.
The hardest adjustment I had to make, as you guessed, was to the climate. I saw snow for the first time but that feeling of excitement quickly dissipated when, later, I could not feel my hands or face. The weather, for a little more than half of the year, tested my strength, endurance, ability to dress and maybe even my belief in God. On a serious note, it took me a year to get used to it. While at St Mary High, I would join all the clubs, do all the competitions, and even randomly help around because I loved the idea of being productively occupied. When I arrived at WLU, I continued that, which culminated in me being the club governance coordinator of the university, and in that role I was responsible directly for the administration and operations of over 160 clubs. It was tough but fun. I worked both on campus and off. Fortunately for me, my university is studen-run, which means that there are numerous student jobs available on campus. I worked in the dining hall, the chemistry lab, the residence department, the International Student Recruitment and Admissions office, the athletics and recreation department, and even off campus at a market research firm. Additionally, I volunteer with the radio station, a few newspapers, and one or two not-for-profit community organisations. If one should ask me where I see myself in ... let’s say ... a decade, I would tell the person that I see myself as the head of the Canadian Security Intelligence Services, which is Canada’s version of the CIA. After that, I am hoping to venture into the world of politics with the ultimate aim of becoming the prime minister of Jamaica. General international school fee range: Approximately CDN$22,000. Cost for accommodation: On campus – $6,000; off campus – $4,000-$6,000 Size of campus, student population: 19,000 students across five campuses with Waterloo being the main campus and Brantford, its second. Student-teacher ratio: 1:25 Matriculation for Caribbean students: Both units of CAPE; however, a student should apply within the first three months of commencing upper-sixt. Contact information: email@example.com, 519884-1970, ext 4684