Senthooran Thangarajah has found a second home to his native Sri Lanka, one he intends to make his permanent home in years to come. Considering he never knew that Canada or the University of Lethbridge were viable options for his overseas studies until meeting Charlene Janes of the International Centre for Students (ICS) – it's amazing how far he's come.
"I'd started my schooling in Malaysia in a two-plus-two program, so I'd always planned to finish elsewhere but I thought the United States was my only option," says Thangarajah, who just completed his final semester in the Faculty of Management (finance).
Janes was at a Canadian post-secondary education fair in Malaysia when she met Thangarajah and presented the U of L as an option. With prodding from a supportive sister, he took the leap and has never looked back. Ready to convocate this spring, Thangarajah turned a co-op placement into a job with ATB Financial, has immersed himself in Canadian culture, will soon apply for an international work visa and has his sights set on becoming a permanent Canadian resident down the road.
His success was not without its challenges but through those difficulties, he discovered a culture of support at the University and an internal strength that has led to boundless opportunity.
Thangarajah struggled with his first few classes. He eventually dropped Writing 1000, contemplated dropping a Management course in which he was languishing and performed poorly on his first two midterms. It was eye opening for a student used to success.
"I think the schooling I did in Malaysia was much easier," says Thangarajah. "I would sit up for the whole night just before the exam and come home with A's pretty easy, but that wasn't the case here. I had to work a lot harder.
"There it was just about the textbook, there is not much in terms of extra-curricular activities. Here, it's a much bigger school, there's a lot more extra-curricular activity, a lot harder work and much more real-time experience."
He discussed his difficulties with Janes and she spoke with some of Thangarajah's professors about the challenges he was facing in adapting to a new style of learning. He eventually turned his poor midterms into A's and began to gain confidence. Thangarajah also started to meet people on campus and it opened up his student experience.
His best decision may have been to attend an ICS information session where he learned about the University's co-op programs. He applied at ATB Financial, earned a co-op placement and is now a personal banking specialist.
When he returned to full-time studies at the University, he came back with a greater sense of confidence – but there was one obstacle he still needed to conquer.
"My first challenge was to take Writing 1000 again because I had dropped it the first time," he says. "When I passed that class, that was where I really got motivated and felt that I could succeed at University."
Thangarajah sees the future as limitless, and credits the U of L and his second home for opening his eyes to the possibilities.
"I feel people are a lot more open-minded here than what I see back home in Sri Lanka," he says. "There are a lot more opportunities to explore here, and if you get into the right path, there's definitely opportunities to achieve."
GET THE FACTS
· One of his greatest worries moving to Lethbridge was dealing with the weather. The average daily temperature in Sri Lanka ranges from 28 to 31 degrees Celsius
· Thangarajah's parents were unable to support him financially beyond his first two semesters, after which he paid for the rest of his education
· His work at ATB Financial includes everything except mortgage lending, which he is now pursuing. He plans to then move into investment banking
This story first appeared in the January edition of the Legend. For a look at the Legend in a flipbook format, follow this link.