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An 11,000 km journey to study in Canada

UVic social media ambassador Stave Massey.

By Philip Cox

“Who would have imagined this kid would have travelled thousands of miles to Victoria, Canada, for studies?” asks second-year psychology student Stave Massey, one of UVic’s newest social media ambassadors, while looking at a childhood photo.

The question—posed in his introductory post for the university’s 47,000 Instagram followers—is likely one that Stave has asked himself a few times over the last twelve months.

In early 2023, Stave travelled the 11,000 kilometers from Hisar, India, to study on Vancouver Island at the University of Victoria. One short year later he’s found success by using his newfound platform to share his journey and inspire other international students who are also living far from home. 

“Coming to study in Canada was a very good decision, but it was kind of intimidating for me because it was the first time I’d gone alone to a new country. So I share what’s helped me. I try to show my struggles in a positive way, and that helps me as well,” he explains.

Out of the comfort zone

So far, Stave’s journey has come with its share of hurdles, as all journeys do, but he sees this in a positive light.

I think it's important to go out of your comfort zone. If I stayed always in my hometown in India, it would be hard to really know my abilities and what I can do. Studying abroad is a very good opportunity for me to become more independent and learn about another culture."

Of all the challenges that Stave has faced in the last year, he says that homesickness is the biggest, which inspired his post offering tips for dealing with homesickness over the holidays.

“I feel homesick when I’m not doing anything,” he says. “Like, if I’m just sitting and thinking—over-thinking—a lot. I think about my family, things I used to do back home, the food….”

family photo on a tablet screen
Stave holding a childhood photo of himself with his parents, whose support and motivation to study abroad was essential for his success, he says. Credit: UVic Photo Services.

Among the strategies that work best for him are regular calls with his parents (“Technology is so good now; you can call, write or see your family any time”), getting involved on campus (“UVic has so many groups where you can connect with people!”) and making new friends (“As an international student, you get introduced to everyone—Canadians, Americans, people from all countries”).

So, when in his first post he invites other students to approach him (“If you see me on campus, don’t hesitate to say ‘hi.’ Let’s be friends. Let’s share stories and create memories together”) it’s actually genuine, which is perhaps what resonates so greatly with his audience.

“The first video was really good for me personally,” Stave admits with a bashful smile. “After I posted it, wherever I would go on campus, people would tell me they recognized me from Instagram. It’s a happy moment for me that they recognized me. It’s a very good moment for me.”

Leading the way

Stave standing outside residence buildings on campus taking a photo with his phone
As social media ambassador, Stave’s job is to showcase student life on campus. Credit: UVic Photo Services

Stave takes his job as social media ambassador for the University of Victoria very seriously, in part because of the role that social media played in his own decision to come to UVic.

“Moving to a different city is very hard when you don’t know anything about it, so I did research by watching student videos on YouTube and Instagram, and that helped me a lot,” he explains. “The campus looked very welcoming for all students, including international students. What I saw on the Internet and what I saw when I arrived were the same—there were no surprises.”

After moving halfway across the globe to pursue a quality education at UVic, Stave has now come full circle by joining the team of students creating content that helps others decide whether the university is right for them.

Stave's authentic voice and unique perspective has struck a chord with people back home, who message him with questions like “why study in Canada?” and “what opportunities are there for working as a student at UVic?” in addition to asking about Stave’s personal experiences living in a place recently named as one of the best cities in Canada.

So many of my friends and people from India are sending me emails and messages on Instagram, asking me about UVic and what I'm doing over here. When I was doing my own research before moving, I didn't know any Indian people at UVic, so it was hard for me to contact anybody informally. Now I'm helping other people back home by showing them my experiences, so it's easier for them to imagine themselves here."

Why UVic

aerial photo showing campus on land next to ocean, with mountains on the horizon
An aerial photo of UVic’s campus and the forests, mountains, ocean and islands that surround it. Credit: UVic Photo Services.

Of all the universities that Stave could have applied to, I had to ask: why UVic?

“I had researched all the Canadian universities and applied to three, but I wanted UVic because of its reputation and global rankings. Also, I didn't want to go to a big, busy city. I like peace,” he says with a laugh. “My dream place has mountains, beaches, islands—so that’s why I came to UVic.”

It was during orientation soon after arriving that Stave learned about the social media ambassador role. As a natural storyteller and an avid photographer, landing the job was a snap.

“Even though I came in January and my friends thought I would not have a big orientation like the one in September, when the majority of undergrads start their degree, mine was so good. The employees at the International Centre for Students helped us a lot and showed us the supports and job opportunities on campus that we have as international students,” he recalls. “I think that studying here will put me in a very good position. I’m making a lot of connections and building a network, which will help me with my career in the future.”

For now, Stave is content with his choice and recognizes just how much he’s grown over the last year.

“I was more dependent on my parents when I lived at home—for money, for schooling, for everything. But now I’m independent over here," he says. "I’m making food on my own, I’m travelling on my own. I’m doing everything myself. It’s good for me to make my own decisions and think about my own future. Because you cannot always be dependent on your parents, right?”

Looking forward

Stave sitting at a bus stop bench at the UVic bus loop

As our interview comes to a natural end, I ask Stave if there’s anything more that he would like to share that might be relevant to this article.

“I started a dream diary before I moved here,” he confides. “I paste all my travel tickets, my test score cards, my offer letter from UVic, my first job offer—all my achievements.”

“And what do you want to see in that book in five years, at the end of your journey here?” I ask him.

“A good person,” he says. “A person who works hard to fulfill all his dreams. Who has a stable life. Who still wants to do better and be better.”

Our students come from all over the world to get a world-class education. Find out how you fit in at UVic as an international student.