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Finding the light: An international student’s experience

Finding the light: An international student's experience

My name is Valeriia Alipova, and I’m from Zaporozhe, in east Ukraine.  
I came to Canada with the Mennonite Voluntary Service (MVS), a year and four months ago.  

I would like to share a story of where I have seen the light of God in my life.  

When I first came to Winnipeg, I had many challenges: new country, new language, new people. For the first time in my life, I was away from family, church, and friends. I so was worried about my future life, I forgot to enjoy the present. 

But I knew God was there. Through all my worries I could see a light—the light of God, in people around me. 

Valeriia joins in the singing at Bethel Mennonite Church.

Since coming here, I’ve met so many interesting, generous, and lovely people!  I could hardly believe how friendly people are in Winnipeg—especially the people at Bethel Mennonite church.

They welcomed me with open hearts.  

People invited me over for supper to their homes, taking me grocery shopping, to concerts, Jets games, and sailing.

When I struggled with homesickness, they spent time with me, showing me God’s love and support. They gave me opportunities to learn and to grow, in both relationships with people, and with God.  

It’s the same for me here at CMU. So remember: you can be the light of God in someone’s life this year! 

Valeriia Alipova is entering her second year at CMU. She originally shared this in chapel during the 2016-17 school year. 

More than a degree, not just a number

More than a degree; not just a number: Stephanie Wilson on why she's choosing CMU, a relatively small university.

It may seem counterintuitive, but the idea of going to a small university scared me.

My high school was one of the largest in Manitoba, so having swarms of other students around was familiar. I was used to seeing people in the halls I’d never seen before, and not knowing most of the teachers.

I was sure going to a big university was the right thing to do. It’s what everyone else was doing.

At the same time, I was fully immersed in the music programs. I had a tight knit group of friends, and teachers who were more like family than friends.

More than a degree; not just a number. Stephanie Wilson on why she's choosing CMU, a relatively small university.

So when I graduated high school last June, I felt the loss immediately. Certain that my time in small programs was done, I longed for that same small group of people who were there for me when I needed to laugh, cry, or grab a doughnut. That sense of belonging was gone, because in university all anyone is concerned about is getting their degree, right?

Wrong.

One of the things I love about CMU is that as a smaller school, they can breathe programs into existence more readily than a larger university.

As a musician, a clarinet player, I hoped and prayed for a CMU band to join. And when I start this fall, there will be!

Another thing I love about CMU is studying in Marpeck Commons, or the Great Hall, and recognizing the same people time and again.

I love that CMU profs have an open-door policy. It says that I’m as important to them as answering emails, or grading papers. I’m excited to be known by more than just my student number.

Most importantly, I’m loved, accepted, and cared for by my admissions counsellor, faculty, and staff at CMU, and was even before being admitted.

There’s no better feeling than being wanted just for being you. I’m not sure this kind of care and connection exists anywhere else.

Picking the “best” university is subjective. Getting a good education in an environment where you can grow, and flourish into the best possible version of YOU, is what matters most. CMU is that place for me.

I’m a clarinetist. And I’m also a pianist, a singer, a Catholic, a writer, a dreamer, a sarcastic joke maker, and a life-long learner. I can do, and be ALL these things at CMU. I don’t have to put myself in a box just to fulfill degree requirements. I can be me here. That’s something I never expected from a university.

Stephanie Wilson is entering her first year at CMU’s School of Music this fall.

From Outtatown to CMU – finding the perfect fit

From Outtatown to CMU - finding the perfect fit

Hey I’m Cole! I’m from Victoria, British Columbia, and I am very excited to be coming to CMU next year! I recently returned from South Africa where I had the time of my life with Outtatown, and now I’ve chosen to continue with this amazing school for further studies. Some may call me crazy for deciding to trade in BC’s beautiful coastline, and mild weather, for Manitoba’s harsh, cold winters, and flat prairie land. But I do believe CMU is where I’m supposed to be. (Plus, I think it’ll be good for me to experience a true Canadian winter).

During our first semester of Outtatown, we spent quite a bit of time in Winnipeg. Every time I was on campus at CMU, I felt a sense of warmth and friendliness. Whether staff or students, every single person I met was so welcoming and kind. The experience honestly made CMU feel like a second home to me.

In the past, I considered different schools, but they never seemed right for me. CMU is different though – it’s definitely the perfect fit. The fact that it’s a smaller school has an obvious impact on the sense of community. I’m excited to be attending a school where I’m not just a number, where people know my name, and care to know me as an individual.

In terms of program, I’ll be studying Communications and Media. For the longest time, I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do with my life, but communications and journalism were both prominent options. While our Outtatown crew was in Hope, BC, we had a visit from the fantastic Danielle Bailey, (Enrolment Coordinator at CMU). She mostly came to hang out, but she also came to talk about CMU, and answer any questions we had. I brought up my interest in journalism and communications, and she told me all about CMU’s communications and media program. I was interested, but as the semester got busy, I sort of left it on the back burner. Over Christmas break, I prayed about what I should do, and sensed God pointing me to this program.

During our second semester in South Africa, we were lucky to have Mike Wiebe (CMU Admissions Counselor) and Paul Peters (Outtatown Program Manager) visit us in Soweto. I talked to Mike a lot about the program. He highly recommended it, so I filled out the forms right there!

From Outtatown to CMU - finding the perfect fitI am very thankful for the sense of community at CMU, and I’m also grateful for the opportunity to attend a school that is faith-based. I hope to enrich my relationship with God alongside Christian brothers and sisters. To have the freedom to do this at university, to be encouraged to do so, is invaluable, and I think, quite uncommon in our society today.

All this is to say, I am absolutely positive that this is where God has led me, and I am so very excited to start a new chapter at CMU! See you in the fall!

Cole Stewart is starting his journey at CMU in the fall, majoring in Communications and Media.

Change and the art of going with flow

Change and the art of going with the flow for #myCMUlife

I’m terrible at dealing with major life changes. I’m constantly trying to figure out where I am, and who I am, within the rhythms and patterns of school, work, and social life. And as life changes, I’ve had to learn to go change with it.

During my first semester of grade 9, instead of doing our usual summer road trip to Somewhere, Canada, my family took a sabbatical to Europe for three months. This was a fabulous opportunity. Everyone around me, from my friends to the elderly ladies at church potlucks, asked me how excited I was. In response, I’d plaster a giant smile on face, and sound just enthusiastic enough to placate them. But inside I was afraid of leaving my routine, my school, and friends, for a whole semester. I was anxious that all of my friends would forget who I was, and somehow I’d come back to school as the new kid.

On landing in Dublin, and looking up at the grand Celtic cathedrals surrounding me, though, all my apprehension disappeared. I was finally excited to travel and explore all these countries I had read about for years. And when I returned to school three months later, my friends had not forgotten me.

Change and the art of going with the flow for #myCMUlife

I was first drawn to CMU by family connections, and the Outtatown program, with no clue what I wanted to do with my life. I stay because of the interesting classes and the allure of a close-knit community. And while university is certainly stressful at times, and has led to a lot of questioning, the unexpected beauty of this place is it’s teaching me to adapt.

The answer to the question of “what am I doing here” is, I don’t know. I’m currently trying to understand people, and the world around me through classes in sociology, psychology, and international development. I’m building community through formal leadership opportunities, and casual chats at the Blaurock. I’m living in this beautiful time of being a second year when I can simply enjoy being in this space without actively worrying about the dark vortex of graduation. I’m learning to rest in the constant motion of university life.

Change and the art of going with the flow for #myCMUlife

As I think about where I’m going, I can’t but think of where I am coming from. I see it in my sister, who just finished soaking up the last few rays of sun in South Africa with Outtatown, an incredible learning experience that I can only hope was as meaningful for her as it was for me.

I’m inspired by my parents, who just finished travelling through China, using their medical and organizational skills to help with conferences for Mennonite Church Canada. I don’t yet know where I’m going, but I hope I can one day be as cool as they are, and use my love for people, and education in a similarly meaningful way.

And as I think about my family, stretched between three different continents, I find myself centred in this place, facing the uncertainties and questions that come with university life. And I think I’ll enjoy being here for a little while longer. 

Mackenzie Nicolle is preparing to enter her 3rd year at CMU, majoring in Intercultural Studies.

If there’s one thing CMU teaches, it’s interconnectivity

When I chose Communications & Media as my major, I probably wouldn’t have pegged Manitoba Public Insurance as the place that I would be completing my practicum. Nonetheless, that is exactly where I found myself one year ago. I was set to be one of five other students with the title of “Community Relations Assistant,” and as a team, we would be responsible for going around to schools, daycares, and summer events across Manitoba to do bike safety and road safety presentations.

Jason FriesenMy communication did not take the form that people typically think of when they hear the words “communications and media.” There were no blog or social media posts. Instead, I engaged with people face-to-face on a daily basis on behalf of MPI. Though at first glance our job was to state the rules of the road and making presentations, it became obvious that interacting and connecting with communities across Manitoba was far more important.

Many of the events I attended showed this, and were part of larger community gatherings. Not only was our team running a bike safety course, but there were other organizations giving away bikes to kids who did not have one, and members of the community would be barbecuing hot dogs. The events were designed to connect different organizations, and bring the whole community together.

It wasn’t hard to tell that this was meaningful to the communities. At one country fair, a man told me that he had been in a car crash several years ago, and had to go through rehab to recover from the effects of it. He then proceeded to sincerely thank me and MPI for all of the funds and assistance that he had received.

Not only did this interaction make me feel like I was building community, but it really made me feel that even in a large corporation like MPI, everything is tied together. What I was doing was not separate from those collecting payments for licenses, or from those making sure that Manitoban’s are cared for when they are in an accident.

My education at CMU has been much the same. I have taken a wide variety of courses, from communications, to business, to Bible, and science. And somehow, I have been able to find connections between many of them.

Making connections will only help me in my future endeavours. Professor David Balzer summed it up best. “Any other academic discipline can be connected to communications, because you won’t be communicating about communications. You’ll be communicating about science, music, business, and other things.”

Jason Friesen is a fourth year student majoring in Communications & Media

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