New arrivals: Meet 6 international students who will be studying in London, Ont.

Close to 12,500 international students come to London every year, with just under 5,000 attending Western University. With students coming from places such as The Netherlands and Germany, to Iran and Senegal, 130 countries are represented on campus.

Between Western University and Fanshawe College, close to 12,500 international students are enrolled yearly

Western student volunteers helped welcome more than 1,000 new international and exchange students to Western from Aug. 31 to Sept. 3. (Nyren Mo/Western International Staff)

Many international students face unique challenges when arriving in Canada for the first time, including language barriers and cultural differences.

Coming from about 130 different countries, over 1,000 students arrived last week in London, Ont., to study at Western University. They came from places such as The Netherlands and Germany to Iran and Senegal and are just beginning to adjust to this next chapter of their lives.

CBC News London caught up with a number of newcomers to learn about their first days in Canada.

Lea Noguerol came from France to London to study software engineering at Western (Alessio Donnini/CBC News)

Up until last week, Lea Noguerol lived in France. Now she's found herself in a country she describes as decidedly different than what she's used to. 

"I guess what's different from France is it's very spread out here. It's not as dense as France, and everybody I've talked to has been so nice," she said. "London is a very multicultural city and I'm very excited about that." 

When asked why she wasn't interested in heading to a more familiar part of Canada—Quebec—Noguerol said this experience is supposed to be about broadening her horizons.

"I actually wanted to practice my English, and I've been to Quebec last year and wanted to see something different."

Her trip to Canada was not without its challenges; however, Canadian hospitality was able to ease the burden.

"They lost my suitcase. I just found it yesterday, thankfully, so I guess that's the first challenge I had to face," said Noguerol. "I got lucky because everybody I talked to was very nice and tried to help me as best as they could."

Nima Hajiseyedjavadi (left) and Mohammad Zeraati (right) are both recent arrivals from Iran. (Alessio Donnini/CBC News)

Mohammad Zeraati and Nima Hajiseyedjavadi are both new arrivals from Iran, who are in different parts of their academic careers. Zeraati is studying for his PhD in civil engineering, while Hajiseyedjavadi is pursuing his master of civil engineering.

Hajiseyedjavadi says he's looked forward to living in Canada for as long as he can remember.

"Canada has been one of the most multicultural societies i know. Actually, since I've been here, I found everywhere and everyone in the environment so friendly. I'm so thrilled to be a Mustang," he said.

While the two friends have similar ideas on what to study, they have different ideas in terms of what they've found challenging about moving to Canada.

Zeraati says the most difficult hurdle is something many immigrants face.

"I'm an immigrant. Immigration has lots of challenges and we can't stay away from these challenges. You must face them," he began. "I think the most important challenge that every immigrant faces, is being far from your family. It's very difficult. Still, here in London I found people very friendly and that makes it easier for me to actually adapt."

Meanwhile, Hajiseyedjavadi's concerns are more immediate and material.

"Well, actually, since I had a car in my own country and as an international student I don't have a car, if I want to go somewhere I have to take a bus. So waiting for a couple of minutes for a bus is something I found inconvenient. I think I should work as soon as possible to earn money and get a car."

Garima Gha is attending Western for her PhD after teaching for years in China and Taiwan. (Alessio Donnini/CBC News)

Canada is home to the largest Indian diaspora in the world. One of the newest members is Garima Gha.

Gha crossed half the world to arrive in London last week. She's a teacher who taught in China and Taiwan, and comes to Western for her PhD. She says she's amazed by what she's seen since arriving.

"The atmosphere, the weather, the people. Everything is fantastic and completely new for me."

What she's not looking forward to, however, is the winter weather.

"I'm waiting for the winter. I heard a lot of bad stories about winter and the ice. I'm going to check it out soon when the snow starts falling," she said.

Cedric Amiel's internship at a research company birthed his interest in robotics, which lead him to Western. (Alessio Donnini/CBC News)

Cedric Amiel is another recent arrival from France. He's studying mechanical engineering with a specialization in automation.

Amiel's primary concerns are mastering English, and meeting more Canadians.

"I hope to practice a lot of English because it's a bit of a struggle for me. I've been speaking English on a daily basis for a month now. I also want to meet Canadian people, because there's a stereotype that Canadians are very nice," he said.

In terms of blending into Canadian culture, he believes it may take a bit of work. 

"I feel like people are much more liberal here. They accept differences much easier than in France, so I may be too rigid, and I'll have to adapt here."

Hassan Haj Hasan came from Jordan to study management and organization. (Alessio Donnini/CBC News)

Hassan Haj Hasan comes to London from Jordan. He's studying management at Western, and picked the forest city for a good reason. 

"I'm interested in business and business in Canada, especially since Toronto's one of the biggest financial districts in North America. So that's my end goal. It helps that Toronto is so close."

He tells CBC News he feels refreshed by the change of scenery, and the diversity in London.

"It's a very welcoming country and everyone's willing to help everyone. The biggest difference from Jordan that I'm seeing here is acceptance and people being open here. It's less of a constricted society," said Hasan. "People are more open-minded and more understanding. That's a fun environment to be around."


Alessio Donnini


Alessio is a Sarnia-born, London-raised multimedia journalist. Graduating from Fanshawe College's Broadcast Journalism program, he's worked in markets from Toronto to Windsor, and has a love for all things news. Alessio can be heard on weekday afternoons reading the news for Afternoon Drive. In his free time, he can be found enjoying a good book, watching a documentary, or learning to cook a new recipe.