International student integrates through community engagement

Posted on Friday, November 30, 2018

Sunny Verma, a masters of electrical and computer engineering student,  left his home country, India, this August to complete his last year of study at the University of Ottawa. As Sunny describes it, “Being an international student in a whole new country was an uncomfortable experience.” However, his discomfort motivated him to get out there and get involved in the community.

Barely a month after his arrival, Sunny began to seize every opportunity to volunteer. It was his way of being engaged socially while also developing new friendships. He first volunteered as an outdoor cleaner with the Ottawa Mission. Then, he showed his support for the Canadian Forces by helping to manage the first water station at the annual Army Run. He also gave of his time to the Free Store with the uOttawa Office of Campus Sustainability.

Sunny Verma

Sunny followed all of this by getting involved as a Proud City campaign coordinator with the Canadian Centre for Gender and Sexual Diversity. He acted as an intercultural exchange leader with the uOttawa Official Language and Bilingualism Institute, as well. Finally, to embrace his first Canadian winter, he recently volunteered for the Snowsuit Fund, helping to provide winter clothing to children from vulnerable families.

With all this experience under his belt, Sunny has now received leadership training from the Michaelle Jean Centre for Global and Community Engagement. He can act as a team leader for other student volunteers and provide exemplary community leadership to his peers. On November 19, he successfully managed and supported his first group of student volunteers, assisting with Samaritan’s Purse’s Operation Christmas Child, which sends thousands of Christmas shoeboxes filled with gifts of hope to children in need around the world.

Reflecting on his journey integrating into a new culture, Sunny says, “Once I decided to expose myself to the culture of my new home country, it became a lot easier and exciting for me to settle down and transition to a new life. Whether it’s interacting with my colleagues who are from different parts of the world or meeting new people for whom Canada has been their home, it’s always a nice feeling sharing our different experiences and the common love for Canada.”

He goes on to say, “Becoming a student volunteer gave me an equally good opportunity to hone my language skills. As an added bonus, volunteering as a team leader has allowed me to improve my leadership and teamwork skills, which are a few of the key skills an employer looks for in a future employee.”

When Sunny first came to the MJCGCE, one of his main goals was to make friends. When asked how his friendship building was going, he says with a big smiling face, “I have made so many friends. I now have friends around the world.”

Sunny has also been pleased to discover that his volunteer experience has allowed him to gain marketable and transferrable skills for employers and get strong references, which will serve him well in job searching in his field when he graduates this year. “I would encourage everyone to do their bit for the society by volunteering and helping the society as often as they can,” he concludes.

group of students