When the COVID-19 pandemic hit, Ashraf Selwaness thought his dreams of becoming a CBU student were over. He had left his job at the British Council due to the lockdown and was having a hard time seeing the light at the end of the tunnel as his plans to move to Nova Scotia slipped further and further out of reach.
Originally from Egypt, Ashraf had learned about CBU through his undergraduate degree at the Canadian International College in Cairo. “I was immediately drawn to the idea of joining the multicultural and diverse campus in Cape Breton,” he explains. “I wanted to study Supply Chain Management, explore pathways to work and make a life for myself in Nova Scotia. When the pandemic began, I wasn’t sure if that would become a reality anymore.”
When CBU announced that classes would be offered online in 2020, Ashraf was relieved that he would still be able to begin his journey from home. He enrolled in his first year of classes for the Post-Baccalaureate Diploma in Supply Chain Management, hoping that when things were safer he would be able to travel to Canada. Now, as his second year nears, that dream is becoming a reality.
Ashraf plans to travel to Cape Breton in August, and says he can’t wait to attend classes in person this September. “I was able to familiarize myself with online learning and make the most of it while meeting professors and students from around the world which I will always consider a huge achievement,” says Ashraf. “But I’m excited to get to know people in a new country, start my life on the other side of the Atlantic ocean and create a home away from home while studying at CBU.”
It was the culture, the spirit and the people of Cape Breton Island that truly called to Ashraf. “The history of the Mi’kmaq and their culture is so inspiring, and the Celtic and Gaelic influence on the Island is so interesting to me,” he says. “I love the diversity and inclusion and can’t wait to land in Nova Scotia for the first time.”
Ashraf, who has experience volunteering for the UN Humanitarian Program in Germany, says he believes we learn how to appreciate diversity and multiculturalism most when we are exposed to people from different cultures and backgrounds. “When we connect freely without focusing on differences in language, race, ethnicity, religion or gender we get to appreciate humanity at its fullest,” he says. “We become more open-minded and capable of adapting in our personal and professional lives. That’s what CBU is encouraging; we are able to be proud of who we are and embrace our differences together.”
Ashraf says he is so excited to complete the rest of his journey at CBU and become part of the community. “I’ve lived in many places in the world,” he says. “But somehow in my heart, I know I’m a Nova Scotian.”