The World University Service of Canada is a student refugee program dedicated to furthering access to education. WUSC opened a branch at UTM in 2007 and since then, the program has sponsored nine students to attend UTM.
This year’s student, Daniel Chol Yach, a talented South Sudanese who lived at the Kakuma Refugee Camp in Kenya, arrived at UTM on September 10. He was welcomed by UTMSU at the airport and is now adjusting to the “quiet” life on residence.
For the 2015/16 academic year, WUSC has successfully placed 86 student refugees, of which eight are from Syria, at various locations throughout Canada.
“Through UTMSU, the local UTM WUSC committee sponsors a WUSC student’s entire cost of education for the first year,” says Naveed Ahmed, who is both the VP external for UTMSU and the chair of the WUSC local committee.
“We also help the student secure on-campus employment, apply for OSAP, and resettle in our community. We support the student for four years by providing an allowance to each sponsored student,” he added.
When asked how he liked Canada, Chol Yach chuckled.
“It’s a good country. The weather is different, but not [too bad] because winter is not here yet,” he said.
He completed his high school education in 2012.
“Windle Trust runs the [WUSC] program in Kenya [and their] advert came out, so I took a chance,” Chol Yach said.
Unfortunately, Chol Yach’s application was denied on his first attempt. However, he chose to apply again.
“It normally takes up to 14 months for the entire [WUSC] process,” Chol Yach said. “There’s an application, a written interview to test your English, and [an] oral interview [conducted by] the WUSC coordinator.”
During the wait, he chose to spend his time wisely, teaching math and science at his high school. He also took a yearlong filmmaking course in Kenya.
Once his application was successful, Chol Yach headed to Canada alongside 25 other WUSC students on the same flight who have been placed at various locations all over the country. Four of his closest friends have been placed at the U of T St. George campus, while he is the only WUSC student here at UTM.
He is currently enrolled in chemical and physical courses for his first year, but his heart lies in both geology and cinema studies.
“I’ve always had that interest in geography since high school. I really like nature [and] it is so green here,” he says. He plans to transfer majors after he meets the GPA cut-off at the end of first year.
When asked if UTM’s reputation intimidated him, he kept his positivity and said he was going to settle in, put in the extra effort and “set his goals” to get a good standing.
WUSC will sponsor Daniel Chol Yach completely for the first year, but it is unclear how he will continue supporting himself afterwards. He plans to focus on his courses for now and figure the rest out when the time comes.
The WUSC program is funded through a student levy. Each UTM student pays $1.10 towards the program for every fall and winter semester.
According to Ahmed, there are resources currently present to support two WUSC students.
“Unfortunately the university rejected our proposal last year without a proper explanation,” he says. “We will continue to lobby the university administration to approve a second WUSC position at UTM.”
Given the ongoing refugee crisis in Syria and other regions, UTMSU still intends to pursue the possibility to sponsor a second WUSC student for the 2016/17 year.