Coming to Canada

- September 30, 2015

Ali Kambe, hanging out in the Killam Atrium. (Matt Reeder photo)
Ali Kambe, hanging out in the Killam Atrium. (Matt Reeder photo)

Ali Kambe describes himself as a quarter Thai, a quarter Japanese, a quarter Bangladeshi, and a quarter Turkish — and he’d like to add Canadian to that list.

The incoming Dalhousie Engineering student from Bangkok is not wasting any time trying to achieve that goal. Indeed, he's already applied for citizenship.

It should help that Ali already has permanent residency status thanks to the five years he spent living with his Thai-Turkish mother in rural Quebec during his early teen years before heading back to Thailand to complete high school.

By choosing to attend Dal, Ali — who also spent time living in New Zealand as a young child — gets to be closer to his mom again and to live in a country where he's felt comfortable from the start.

"I have all of these cultural backgrounds, so I guess coming to a very multicultural country I kind of felt at home," says Ali, whose father is half Bangladeshi and half Japanese.

Finding community

Ali admits he didn't know much about Dal before meeting a recruiter at a university fair in Thailand in his sophomore year of high school, but says it didn't take long for him to realize the university's academics, classroom experience and community spirit were just the mix he was looking for.

"Part of what piqued my interest in Dal was the community behind it. From what people tell me Dal is kind of like a family, especially if you live in residence," says Ali, who is living in Howe Hall this year.

Socializing freely will be a contrast to Ali's recent experience living under military rule in Thailand. He remembers having to rush home by 10 p.m. to meet a curfew imposed by the ruling junta in the days following its coup d'état against the caretaker government in May of 2014. "If you were caught out, you were sent to jail," he says.

Making the most of it

While Ali wants to make the most of his time at Dal by meeting new friends and getting involved in extracurricular activities (like sailing, which he learned in the Gulf of Thailand), he also plans to study hard to secure a spot in the Civil Engineering stream.

Ali developed an interest in engineering while living with his grandfather, a civil engineer in Thailand. "I would see him go to work and would always ask him questions. It always interested me, building infrastructure especially," he says, noting he's been interested in designing things since he was a little kid.

As absorbed as Ali is in settling in at Dal, he’s also remarkably clear-eyed about his longer-term goals. He’d like to advance into a master’s program in engineering after completing his undergrad and then possibly move on to do an MBA.

One of his long-term goals would be getting a job with the Asian Development Bank in Manila, Philippines — that is, if he doesn’t stay in Canada.

“I find the quality of life in Canada really good,” he says. “I wouldn’t mind living here for a very long time. I guess getting citizenship would make that easier.”


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