Candace Stewart: Education is the key
August 23, 2013
“I love helping people.”
So says Candace Stewart, who is yet another inspiring example of an immigrant whose skills and qualities enrich our community in immeasurable ways.
A story about Candace is really a profile of an immigrant who keeps giving back to the community; a representative of a valuable LIP partner, the University of Guelph; AND a hardworking, long-term LIP member and co-chair of the LIP’s Social and Civic Inclusion Delivery Group—all rolled into one!
In search of new experiences and learning, she left her home in Trinidad & Tobago in 1997 to join her sister in Canada and do her last year of high school at Hamilton’s Columbia International College. With all the excitement of someone who loves a good adventure, she says “when I saw the CN tower, I knew I had found the right destination.”
Candace began studying at the University of Guelph a year later. Right from the start, this friendly, gentle woman with a huge smile was drawn to working with other international students on campus. She first began working with the Centre for International Programs, an office at the university that works with exchange students, and then eventually made her way to the Office of Intercultural Affairs (OIA). The OIA supports long-term international students “in their transition to life and study at the University of Guelph and serves the campus community by fostering an environment of cultural competency and diversity.” It offers varied programming (ambassador initiatives, information sessions, ongoing workshops and events, peer support, cultural diversity education), advice, and resources to help settle international students and make them feel more comfortable.
But after completing her Masters in 2006, she felt the urge to reconnect with and get to know the family she left at such a young age. So she moved back to Trinidad & Tobago for three years. “I needed to know where I was from and to also appreciate Canada,” she says. When she returned in 2009, she “had to start all over again in some ways.” Although she had to accept that most of her old friends had left, the university snapped her up again a short while later. She is now the Transition and Engagement Coordinator in the Office of Intercultural Affairs.
When I asked her what advice she would give to newcomers, she said “don’t isolate yourself, be brave! While it is good to befriend your countrymen, your life will be enhanced by meeting others who hail from so many different countries and cultures and make Canada what it is today. Make that special effort to integrate so that you can become a part of this great society.”