GUEST COLUMN: International student gives experience here big thumbs-up

Karishma Dahal

My name is Karishma Dahal and I come from a very small and beautiful town called Kalimpong, in India.

Karishma Dahal

In the summer of 2016, I moved to another beautiful town called Sarnia, in Canada.

It’s common for many countries to have a set of popular cities that are known internationally. For example, people from the West know Indian cities such as Mumbai and Delhi, but have never heard of Guwahati or Lucknow.

Likewise, I knew of only three Canadian cities before I came to Canada: Toronto, Quebec and Vancouver. Honestly, I had never even heard of Ottawa, the capital.

When I confirmed I would be studying and living in a place called Sarnia I became curious and nervous at the same time.

The information available online was not encouraging. Some people shared that, being a small city, it was prone to racism.

I remember my drive from Windsor to Sarnia for the first time. It was beautiful, no doubt, with farms and barns surrounded by green stretches of land, with neat patterns of trees every now and then.

But I remained extremely skeptical about the place. The quiet neighborhoods, the silent roads, they added to my anticipation of loneliness.

But these are the very things I have grown to love about this place. Home to just 75,000 people, Sarnia is a medium-sized community in Canadian demographic terms, but to me it’s a charming old town with small-town friendliness. It embraces local traditions, seems committed to maintaining long-standing landmarks, and has genuine affection for everything local.

I have also found Sarnia to be a sleepy little place that minds it own business, and doesn’t bother itself with what’s happening in bigger cities.

Unsurprisingly, when I asked around, people said it hasn’t changed much from years gone by. It’s the kind of place where you know you will bump into someone familiar when you’re out roaming around.

Coming from a small town myself, I relate to this slower pace of life and abiding sense of familiarity. Everyone seems to know each other, including the bus drivers and the people at the grocery stores.

Although it’s not the prettiest town in Canada, Sarnia does have many exciting places to explore, and the riverside is one of my favourites.

Spending some time by the water in the evening helps melt away troubles and worries, and of course the traditional French fries add to the experience. Walking in Canatara Park under the trees is therapeutic for homesickness, and I never get tired of visiting the cute little Animal Farm.

I have made some good friends here, and over time I have made peace with winter. I have actually started to enjoy the snow.

I feel at home in Sarnia. The place has given me my own space and time to adapt to a new life in a new country.

I have since visited a number of places in Canada and have many more to explore, but Sarnia will always remain very close in my heart.

Karishma Dahal is a second-year international student at Lambton College studying Early Childhood Education