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Canadian university life is ‘awesome’ says Indonesian student
Since arriving in Canada in 1996, Poppy has gotten used to being called “Popster” by her friends at Wilfrid Laurier University (WLU), where she is an undergraduate student in business administration with a minor in development and international studies.

A native of Indonesia, Poppy has discovered her Western groove in southwestern Ontario. She knows how to be hip on campus and is aware of the hot social spots around Waterloo, Ontario – about 110 kilometres southwest of Toronto, where WLU is based.

And Poppy is already thinking ahead, beyond 2003 when she hopes to graduate with an honours degree in business administration, and indeed has set her sights on Toronto’s Bay Street – also known as Canada’s financial capital – where Poppy hopes to work as an investment banker.

She’s even passed the ultimate test of Canadian sturdiness. The cold and snow that comes with winter in the Great White North don’t bother her a bit.

Poppy has come a long way from that summer in 1996 when she travelled to Burlington, Ont. from Jakarta with her grandmother to visit her aunt who had just received Canadian landed immigrant status.

The trip was meant to be a vacation. “I decided to stay,” explains Poppy.

“Back home, everything is based on connections. Getting a good job is based on whom you know. It doesn’t matter whether you go to university whereas in Canada getting a degree is important in pursuing a career.”

Poppy’s first impression of Canada was that the country is a lot safer than the one she had left and where her ethnic-Chinese family received regular reminders of their position as a cultural minority in Indonesia.

So in the summer of 1996, Poppy, a Buddhist, applied and much to her surprise was accepted as a student at a Roman Catholic high school in Burlington. She called her parents with the news.

“I told them I’m not going back and they kind of freaked out,” she recalls.

Once their shock wore off, Poppy’s parents faxed her academic transcript from Indonesia and began shipping her clothing and other personal belongings to her new home in Burlington, a city about 50 km southwest of Toronto.

Meantime, Poppy, who already had a visitor visa, began the process of applying for a study permit in order to remain in Canada to study. Once a medical examination gave her a clean bill of health and federal immigration authorities approved her application to remain in Canada, Poppy had the official paperwork to begin a new life in Canada.

She entered Grade 11 in November 1996, just as winter began. “It was pretty cold,” recalls Poppy.

But it wasn’t just the weather that required some getting used to. Adjusting to high school life in Ontario wasn’t easy for Poppy, she says.

“A lot of students grew up together – some knew one another since kindergarten – so they hung out together in groups and it was difficult to make friends.”

Things changed after Poppy completed Grade 13 (which will no longer exist after 2003), in 1999 and entered her first year of business administration studies at Wilfrid Laurier that fall.

With a campus consisting of students from around the world and Canadian students reflecting the country’s multicultural diversity, Poppy easily blended into the university’s academic and social scene.

“University life has been awesome,” she now says.

So awesome in fact that Poppy wants to stick around Canada’s university environment after her graduation in 2003 when her study permit is set to expire. She plans to apply for an extension in order to pursue a Master of Business Administration degree, possibly at York University in Toronto, a campus a lot closer to Bay Street.

Since she’s been in Canada, Poppy has twice returned to Indonesia, where friends and family members have been eager to receive her “take” on life in a northern country an ocean away.

“They all want to know what it’s like here and I tell them it’s friendly,” she says.