Settling in just fine 

By Barbara Black

International students are on the rise at Concordia. Currently, there are more than 4,443, a 36 per cent increase in the past four years. Students from the United States, France, China and many other countries around the world now represent 12 per cent of the student body.

The university wants to increase that number. Enza De Cubellis, Director of Special Projects in Enrolment and Student Services, says prospective students have lots of questions about Canada and Concordia.

“But they want to hear about other students’ experience, and they want it unedited and unmonitored.” The Concordia International Students Association (CISA) helped establish a blog that’s entertaining and informative. Here’s a sample.

Meet the international student bloggers Magnifying glass

Meet the international student bloggers

Monica Lafon is from Mexico. She vividly remembers arriving at Trudeau Airport.
“I was talking to another person that was in the same flight as me, you know, because I was nervous of course. But then a woman broke in and said: ‘Hey! Where are you from? I love Spanish. I am from Marruecos.’

“From that moment on, I realized that different from back home, speaking more than two languages was the norm. It was kind of cool when someone greeted me by saying: “Hallo-bonjour?” Because I could basically choose to answer in English or in French! Or sometimes even switch from one to the other!”

Initially keen on the idea of snow and snowboarding, Lafon has reconsidered. “I was wrong about winter. You really do have to adapt to the cold and especially the fact that the days become shorter. But I was right about Concordia. The people, the teachers and the places to discover in Montreal make up for the difficult weather!”

Desirée Enderer is studying journalism, French and political science. She wrote about what it was like to go back to Germany for the holidays, and called her entry “What is home exactly?” Walking the streets of her hometown was oddly annoying.

“I started to realize that people there smiled a lot less and just generally seem unhappy. One thing which really bugged me was that somebody would bump into [me] without ever turning or saying sorry. This seems to be a little thing but I guess I got really used to it here in Montreal.”

Elie Chivi is Lebanese, but he grew up in Dubai. He’s majoring in Human Relations and Creative Writing, and this is his fifth and final year. He’s the current president of CISA.

In a reflective blog entry titled “All that glitters . . . is actually gold,” Chivi talked about “the fascinating and comedic struggle between the person I was and who I am now.”

Being an international student means spending years away from home, learning to think outside the box. “Then we come back home and the box is there for us to crawl back into.

“Within this box, we sit through awkward exchanges where we try to explain to each and every enthusiastic relative what exactly it is we study and why we didn’t decide to become doctors. Then there’s the customary subtle pry into our love lives and it finally ends up with the comfortable and familiar discussion on how difficult the Montreal winter is.”

Audrey Noeltner (Human Environment and Urban Planning) grew up half in Paris, half in Los Angeles. She has found in Montreal the best of both worlds — “friendly, cultured, safe and fun” — and has convinced her two brothers and her boyfriend to become Concordia students. Noeltner recently ventured out of Quebec for a vacation in Newfoundland.

“I found within this very rough landscape a pure untouched beauty on the island (especially at the coast) and amazingly warm people. I spent 10 superb days, hiking, playing hockey (for the first time), eating fish, drinking beers with cool ‘true Newfoundlanders,’ all the time enjoying myself. For those who wish to have a real taste of Canadian culture, beautiful landscape and a great time, I strongly recommend you visit Newfoundland!”

You can read the blog at


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