Finding Belonging and Community: An International Student's Journey at OISE

By Aakriti Mahajan
July 19, 2023
Aakriti and 7 of her friends on the last Day of Winter Session Classes 2023 at OISE

Reflecting on my first year at the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education (OISE), a profound sense of growth, connection, and community washes over me. From the moment I stepped onto campus as an eager international student, I knew OISE would be a transformative chapter in my educational journey. It provided a strong sense of belonging and a vibrant community that celebrated diversity and fostered personal growth. 

Embracing Diversity:

At OISE, I encountered a symphony of diverse voices converging to create a harmonious community. Each day was an exhilarating experience with brilliant minds from around the globe. Engrossed in captivating conversations, I found my beliefs challenged and my perspectives broadened. The multicultural environment celebrated various backgrounds, views, and experiences, making me feel welcomed and valued. OISE provided a safe and inclusive space where my Indian heritage was acknowledged and celebrated. The vibrant tapestry of cultures came alive, inspiring collaboration and unity and revealing the limitless possibilities that arise when diverse perspectives intertwine. 

Full class of students posing with Professor Jim Slotta
Me with my cohort and Professor Jim Slotta.
Cultivating Relationships:

One of the defining aspects of my experience at OISE was the incredibly supportive community. The faculty, staff, and fellow students went above and beyond to ensure that international students like me felt supported and included. Beyond the classroom walls, friendships blossomed, forming an unbreakable bond that transcended the confines of academia. Late-night study sessions, shared laughter, and heartfelt conversations created memories that will last a lifetime. In the vast expanse of OISE's community, I discovered allies, mentors, and kindred spirits who fueled my ambitions and celebrated my triumphs. From orientation programs specifically designed for international students to ongoing mentorship initiatives, I never felt alone on my journey. OISE offered resources such as academic support, counselling services, and career guidance, which played a pivotal role in my personal and educational development.

Student Associations and Events: 

Joining student associations and participating in various events were instrumental in fostering a sense of community and belonging. OISE provides numerous opportunities to engage with like-minded individuals through clubs, organizations, and social events. I became an active member of the Curriculum, Teaching and Learning Students' Association (CTLSA), which allowed me to connect with students and share our experiences, challenges, and triumphs at OISE. Attending guest lectures, academic conferences, and seminars further enriched my understanding of diverse perspectives and provided a platform for meaningful discussions.

Four women standing in a hall dressed in cultural wear
At the "Building Bridges" event organized by CTLSA and REC asking participants to dress in cultural clothing.
Igniting the Spark of Research and Practice: 

OISE unveiled a world where research and practice moved in perfect harmony. The institute's commitment to experiential learning paved the way for research projects, assistantships and community engagement initiatives, where theory met reality and transformative experiences were born. I delved into research projects that challenged conventional wisdom and sought to create change. OISE's commitment to seamlessly blending academia and practice ignited a fervent desire within me to become a catalyst for positive transformation. The faculty at OISE played a crucial role in creating a supportive and inclusive environment. They embraced diversity and encouraged students to share their unique perspectives. I was privileged to be mentored by professors who cared about my academic and personal growth. Their guidance, expertise, and encouragement gave me the confidence to explore new avenues of research and engage in critical discourse.

A Kaleidoscope of Promising Horizons: 

As I gaze toward the future, I am captivated by the kaleidoscope of promising horizons that OISE has illuminated. Reflecting upon my first year at OISE fills me with a sense of wonder and gratitude. It was a transformative journey that brought personal growth, forged profound connections, and ignited a burning passion for education. OISE opened its doors and welcomed me into a world where intellectual curiosity blossomed and the power of community flourished. With renewed zeal, I embark on the next year of this exhilarating adventure, knowing that OISE has forever shaped the trajectory of my life, propelling me to a future illuminated by the pursuit of knowledge, community, and positive transformation.

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