Grit, international education and what makes TMU special: A conversation with TMU President Mohamed Lachemi
At Toronto Metropolitan University, our commitment to innovation and deep connections with the dynamic city of Toronto shapes our identity. One individual who embodies our spirit of grit and success is our very own president, Mohamed Lachemi.
Born in Algeria, President Lachemi is an inspirational figure whose journey to self-made success exemplifies the possibilities available to international students in Toronto. We caught up with President Lachemi to delve into his story and hear his thoughts on the international student experience, and what sets TMU apart.
Why did you decide to pursue an international education?
I knew that I wanted to further my education, and that the options I was interested in were not available closer to home. Canada had many avenues for me to further my engineering education, which is how I came to pursue my master’s in structural engineering at Sherbrooke University in Quebec.
What are your favourite memories from your first year as an international student?
Some of my favourite memories are centred around the new cultures I discovered through the people I got to know. I have always said some of your best friends are the ones you will meet in university and that was certainly true for me.
I am still in touch with some of my friends from my days at Sherbrooke University. I think experiencing the challenges of coming to a new country with other international students really bonded us, and having a community of fellow international students was very important to me.
How did you stay motivated and inspired?
Staying motivated and inspired is all about having purpose in your life, and making sure you continue to learn and discover new things at all ages.
Lifelong learning and continuing to foster new relationships and friendships are important to me. Moving to Canada as a student and continuing to make a life for myself and my family here has certainly been an inspiring and exciting journey and I am proud to call Canada my home.
What is the one piece of advice you would give to your past international student self to maximize your success studying in Canada?
I would remind myself that there is always opportunity for growth, and to take advantage of every opportunity that comes my way to learn and experience life.
I would also tell my former self to never be afraid to ask questions, and ask for help when it is needed. We all need one another to grow; we have so much to learn from and gain through our interactions with others.
Looking back on your student experience, would you change anything or do anything differently?
Looking back is a challenging thing to do — and while I have always given 100 per cent effort, I know that effort does not control the outcome.
One thing I might have done differently is commit myself to learning more languages — being multilingual brings more opportunities.
What are you most proud of when it comes to TMU’s progress in strengthening its global reach and impact?
I am most proud of the way we approach education. At TMU, we want a student’s educational journey to have a positive impact on them and to open up opportunities for their future. But we are also focused on the positive impact our students will have on the world around them. I am proud of how we arm our students with the skills they need to navigate and succeed in their own journeys, and how we encourage them to push boundaries to make positive change wherever they go in the world.
A great example of this is our law school — we are graduating our first class of students this year and I know they will take what they have learned at TMU to change the legal profession in our province and beyond.
What is the value of getting an international education at TMU?
Being an international student at TMU means being in the centre of it all. In my opinion, Toronto is a world-class city that offers a lot to anyone living and learning here. Not only are there many opportunities for students to pursue their future careers, but there are people from all over the world living here. We have representation from all over the globe on our campus — this allows our students to develop the skills and knowledge they need to truly become global citizens.
What is your favourite spot on the TMU campus and why?
My favourite part of campus is Gould Street, because you can see just how diverse our campus is as you walk down the street. You can see students, faculty and staff from all over the world interacting, learning and sharing with one another and that is a very special thing.
What makes TMU a welcoming institution for international students?
I think our diverse community creates a sense of belonging for all of our students and allows them opportunities to connect with people with similar backgrounds and shared values. There are students, faculty and staff from all over the world here, dedicated to helping our international students feel welcome and supported.
Do you have any final tips or advice for incoming international students to TMU?
Make sure you seize every opportunity you have to connect with others. Lean into all of your experiences, not only your classes, labs and studios but also the extracurricular activities available to you. Get involved in clubs, teams, zones and competitions and make the most of this vibrant community — the skills you will develop by working with others in various ways and settings will be invaluable to you.