Now that you’ve acknowledged my Drake pun, let’s move on.
With McDonald’s as my first job, I looked at the customer service industry with pity and a promise to never go back. But this summer changed everything. I cannot be more grateful for the experiences I’ve had and the people I’ve met through my summer job in customer service at the International Students Welcome Booth Program at Pearson International Airport organized by the City of Toronto.
In a place where over 1,100 flights land and take off to 180 destinations in the world, the temptations to take my passport with me had never been more provoking.
Every day was different. Our shift would start as co-workers and end as friends. Almost all the students working with me had come to study at Ryerson internationally. We would learn so much about each other’s cultures for which we otherwise would not have had the chance.
I’ve never felt so genuinely happy to help strangers. I know what it’s like to travel alone to a place where no one is waiting for you and a drastic language barrier rests as a cherry on top.
When students came to our booth, we gave them a Toronto starter pack with city guides, discounts cards, and free international phone calls. Not only was I happy to make the student’s long trip better, but I was proud to be Canadian. Even in such a diverse city like Toronto, I met people from places I’d only seen on a map.
Then there were some not so good times when students had almost 24 hours of travel with no one to pick them up. Özge, a Ryerson student from Turkey was one of them. We hit it off at the airport and my family was happy to host her until she could find alternative accommodation.
I ran into another international student in a ride share back from Montreal. Rudy and I later met up and did a Toronto city tour on foot before he headed off to Barrie to study!
During the month, I got to see the Canadian athletes coming home, witness the CBC’s Hello, Goodbye series being filmed and also see our work being acknowledged by CTV, the Toronto Star, and the Ryersonian.
I also go to meet Diki, a 12-year-old Waterloo physics student from Indonesia!
When I wasn’t helping students find their way, I was people watching. Arrivals is one of the best places to do so if I may add. You see families of 10+ members with flowers and flags waiting for just one person; you see people who weigh 50lbs pushing luggage weighing twice their size; and then there are my favorites: youngsters standing in mid traffic, staring aimlessly with their suitcase in a tight grip – aka international students we are eager to meet!
The Departures level is sad, don’t go there.