Meet Mariana Vargas, a Colombian student in Canada seeking a BA in Anthropology and Linguistics at the University of Winnipeg. Find out how her path has been so far, the challenges she has had to face and what her advice is for future students.

In our commitment to offer you an overview of the best destinations to study abroad, on this occasion we would like to take you to Canada and the experience of Mariana, a Colombian student enrolled at the University of Winnipeg (UWinnipeg). Let yourself be inspired by her story, which has been shared with us by Valerie Chelangat, Student Recruiter at the University.

Mariana Vargas is a 3rd year student pursuing a Bachelor of Arts degree in Anthropology and Linguistics at UWinnipeg. She came to Canada from Colombia as an exchange student in her last term of high school. Some of her friends back in Colombia had been in the same exchange program and shared their experience with her. She saw value in studying abroad and when the opportunity presented itself, Mariana eagerly flew to Manitoba, Canada. 

Winnipeg won her heart, leading Mariana to opt to continue her post-secondary education in Canada. She applied to The University of Winnipeg and joined a community of students, faculty, and staff whom she says were warm and welcoming. “The staff were very nice to me when I was trying to apply. I got a lot of help when I started the process,” she explains.

Overcoming the challenges

Mariana is proud of herself for getting out of her comfort zone, traveling outside of her home country for school, and independently creating a new path and a new life for herself in Canada. “I am proud of having this opportunity and being part of something different. Knowing people from different countries, with different backgrounds has been a very enriching experience and I am really glad to find that at UWinnipeg,” she says. 

While studying in Canada is exciting and offers many opportunities, to Mariana it also presents some challenges. She misses the familiarity of her childhood environment with its culture and typical practices. She confesses that sometimes she feels like she does not belong. “It is mostly feeling that you are not part of the country, or that it is not your place,” she explains. Mariana has made a point of surrounding herself with people. She has a strong support network made up of her schoolmates, coworkers, and friends. “I try to connect more at the University… so I do not feel lonely.” When Mariana arrived in Winnipeg, she was shy and often held back in conversations. She says now she is more outspoken. “When I came here I did not feel comfortable talking about my opinions, my experiences. I did not know where I fit in. [Now] I state my opinion. I decided I was going to be me.”

Experience studying at UWinnipeg 

Mariana works in the International, Immigrant and Refugee Students (IIRSS) department at UWinnipeg, which offers continuous support to its student body throughout their studies at the University. She has been involved in planning and hosting events including picnics and chess tournaments, and creating spaces for students. “Being part of IIRSS has been really great,” Mariana says. “I got to meet so many people and we have done so many activities”. Mariana explains that she was not very involved in clubs in her first year as she was still trying to figure things out. She remembers attending a cultural event organized by IIRSS. “They had different dances from different countries, and different foods. That was one good memory from my first year.”

The Covid-19 pandemic has affected the experiences of students at universities. Mariana says that as much as she has enjoyed many aspects of her university life, she feels that the pandemic robbed her of the full experience. “I wish I was part of more things,” she says. Nonetheless, Mariana acknowledges she has grown tremendously at the university. “Overall, I feel it is a great experience. I learned so much and I grew a lot.”

Studying away from home gives students room to grow independently and curve out their own path as Mariana expressed. She advises students who are considering studying in Canada to take the time to think about what is right for them. What they want to do in their future and how Canada will play into that plan. “If Canada is the right path, then UWinnipeg is a really great place to come to,” she says. “Being your first time in Canada, UWinnipeg is a welcoming university.” 



Valerie Chelangat is the Communications & Events Coordinator and a Student Recruiter at The University of Winnipeg.

Feeling inspired after hearing Mariana’s story and considering Canada as your next study destination? Watch the SRT Webinar Study in Canada from November 24th and get firsthand information from leading university representatives!