Image Credit: Saskatchewan Polytechnic
Image Credit: Saskatchewan Polytechnic

Celebrating diversity, one story at a time

The theme for this year’s Intercultural Week is intentionally intercultural.

Sask Polytech is a diverse community with students, faculty and staff coming from all around the world. Intercultural Week, running March 19-23, is an opportunity to learn from one another and share stories in the hopes of finding common ground and developing a deeper understanding of each other.

Stories like the one Bilal Kharsa has to share, about fleeing the Middle East because of war, leaving behind his family and friends. 

“My story is about finding a safe place to live and about making difficult choices,” says Bilal. “My story is turning challenges and tragedy into opportunities.” 

Born in Syria in 1993, Bilal started working as a baker and a barber at the age of 11. In 2009, he moved to Lebanon hoping to work and save money for his education. While still in Lebanon, Bilal started his own cell phone business in 2013, which was a success for two years. But, because of the war he was unable to return to Syria and complete his education. 

Having landed in Canada in 2016, Bilal is now a highly motivated and ambitious student learning English with Language Instruction for Newcomers to Canada (LINC) at Sask Polytech in Saskatoon. 

“I have spent 17 months improving my language skills and engaging with other cultures. I started as a level one student, but now I have reached level six with the help of my instructors,” says Bilal. 

As he continues moving forward with his school work, Bilal plans on studying business in the future. He also works full time and enjoys experiencing all that Saskatoon and Saskatchewan have to offer newcomers to Canada. 

“I like the land of the living skies and its magnificent sunsets, blue skies, puffy white clouds and northern lights,” says Bilal. “Canada is a multicultural country. Saskatoon itself has many multinational festivals in the summer, bustling streets, cafes, restaurants and museums to attract visitors from all over the world.” 

With Intercultural Week going on in full swing, there are lots of opportunities for students, faculty and staff to participate and learn about other cultures in ways that are meaningful and have long-lasting affects. 

“As Intercultural Week continues to grow and develop as an institutionally supported initiative, so does our desire to expand intercultural understanding by moving beyond surface-level celebrations —food, fun and fashion — to deeper levels of acceptance, respect and inclusion of difference,” says Debbie Griffith, intercultural learning specialist in International Education.

If you would like to learn more, please visit: www.saskpolytech.ca/intercultural-week

And don’t forget to share your story on social media using #SaskPolytechCulture.

Published March 2018.