Over the summer, Joseph Maghamez completed the Summer ACE at UTM program. This program is designed for students who have not met English language proficiency requirements.  It allows him to begin school at UTM in the fall, pursuing studies in life sciences. After being forced to leave Aleppo due to the growing civil conflict, The Maghamez family arrived in Canada in January 2016. The Medium sat down with Maghamez for a candid conversation about his experiences and what he is looking forward to for the upcoming school year.

“The ACE program was fun outside of the classroom,” says Maghamez. Although he says the “exam was much harder,” than he expected, he was able to make quite a few friends in what he describes a “multi-cultural group,” that allowed them to learn from each other.

Around the time of the completion of his baccalaureate in 2015, Maghamez describes how “Aleppo wasn’t safe at that time, and [my] family decided to move to Latakia, the coastal city.”  After spending half their summer in Latakia, the Maghamez family decided to move to Lebanon.  “We needed to move out of Syria as it was not safe anymore. At that time, [my] uncle in Canada was working on our papers in Canada to move us out here as a private sponsorship.”

Maghamez and his family arrived in Lebanon closer to August. After spending 4 months there, they moved to Canada in 2016, on the fifth of January.

“The first 2 weeks [I] spent adjusting here [and] then started the ELT program in Toronto,” says Maghamez. “I lived in Mississauga while I was doing the courses at St. George. Monday to Friday,” he elaborates, “I finished my 3 months over there, then I was here in Mississauga trying to improve my English more. I went to schools, I went to adult school, I trained in college. I tried IELTS 4 times, during the time […] I was trying to upgrade my English I was also working.”

Maghaamez found out about the ACE program at UTM after counselling with an advisor. He says “it was another way around the IELTS, because I was struggling.” Two weeks after starting his second job, Maghamez began classes for ACE at UTM. He describes how “you can take integrated English so you can comprehend, and […] understand most of the academic language.” The ACE program also provided Maghamez with residence on campus, which he describes gave him the opportunity to “discover the campus more.”

After completing the ACE program on August 23, Maghamez became eligible to be a full-time student at UTM. Fulfilling English language proficiency requirements through the ACE program provides students with three options: becoming eligible for full-time studies upon acquiring the required grade, part time if the grade is between C+ and B-, or a requirement to take private classes for improving scores in English if grades are less than C+.

When asked about how his experience has been in Canada so far, Maghamez describes how “Canada is amazing, you don’t get to travel much because you’re busy most of the time, [but] you get to enjoy your friends.”

Maghamez also commented on his experiences about meeting open-minded people and the multi-cultural environment in Toronto when “trying to find a Canadian culture,” but realized the culture itself is largely multi-cultural. Maghamez also describes how finding employment in Canada has allowed him to feel more independent, “back in Aleppo I didn’t have to work because I was young […] still in high school and my dad was a pediatric doctor. But in Lebanon, I worked 2 months at a copy center because we couldn’t study and we had free time.”

Although Maghamez is looking forward to interacting with the UTM faculty and learning about research, he says “the reason why I chose UTM was because it offered us free transcripts for our grades, my baccalaureate from high school.” He further describes how “other universities charged 500 dollars for a transcript,” along with requiring an online version.

Eager to begin his undergraduate career, hoping to one day follow his father’s footsteps towards medical practice, Maghamez says, “I’m excited, I’m very excited. I’ve been waiting 2 years to start university, and now I feel like I’m ready to start.”