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Melissa Alvarez says her choice to attend Saint Mary’s University changed her life for the better 

Melissa Alvarez never fit in.  

Ever since childhood she believed there had to be somewhere else for her. Her home in Mexico was one of privilege, yet it came with a lot of restrictions. There were restrictions on what she could say, what she could believe, how she was supposed to act. She wanted more. 

“I always knew I didn’t quite belong there,” Alvarez says. “It was a very judgmental place. I always knew I wanted to go somewhere I could explore and say what I thought.” 

She also wanted to be somewhere safe. But where? 

She began contacting universities all over the United States as she approached the end of high school. She applied to 18 different institutions and was eventually accepted at 15 of them, but something didn’t feel quite right. 

“It was expensive and exhausting, but I eventually realized I had the wrong concept of what I wanted to do,” Alvarez says. “I got accepted to a university in New York and thought I would go there, but it wasn’t really what I wanted.” 

She says she wanted to visit Canada ever since Grade 10 but didn’t apply to any Canadian universities until she did more research and discovered Saint Mary’s University in Halifax, Nova Scotia. She instantly knew it was the right place for her. 

“It’s a smaller university where I wouldn’t just be another student. I felt I was a part of this place and decided to come here.” 

The decision wasn’t without its hurdles. Alvarez says the study permit process was fairly simple and straightforward, but she hadn’t factored in what being so far from home would be like. 

“Being away from my family was the hardest part,” she says. “The first semester here was the hardest time of my life. I love my family and I’m close to them. 

“Now I don’t think about going home at all. Instead, I dream my parents can come here and see where I live.” 

Alvarez says her change of heart is due to her roommate and the support she found at Saint Mary’s. She thinks of her roommate as part of her family now and her new home has become her “whole world.” 

“I made the right choice. I feel very happy here. Everyone here is so nice. The director of our high school back home is from Canada and he said I would love Nova Scotia and he was right. I’m in love with here.” 

“Sonnet 60 by Shakespeare reminds me of Nova Scotia and my decision to come here. Life allows you to blossom, it’s all about choices, and time is precious,” Alvarez says. 

She is currently studying psychology, a subject she says isn’t considered “real” or “legitimate” back home, but she hopes one day she can return to Mexico and help the people of her village. 

Alvarez says her advice to other international students looking to attend university away from home is to think twice before applying to a lot of schools like she did. 

“Do your research and find a place where you’ll feel happy. Go wherever you know it will become your whole world and you will be happy.” 

“The hardest thing for international students is you never know exactly where you’re going, what it will be like. You’re leaving behind your past, but you need to know you will meet someone who will become your whole world and it’s going to be okay. You’ll get through it.” 

“You never know what someone is hiding or going through. You never know how much you can help and become someone’s whole world. I came to a place where everyone is empathetic and kind and willing to help you. So, you need to take that and help someone else.” 



Sonnet 60: Like as the waves make towards the pebbl’d shore 


Like as the waves make towards the pebbl’d shore, 

So do our minutes hasten to their end; 

Each changing place with that which goes before, 

In sequent toil all forwards do contend. 

Nativity, once in the main of light, 

Crawls to maturity, wherewith being crown’d, 

Crooked eclipses ‘gainst his glory fight, 

And Time that gave doth now his gift confound. 

Time doth transfix the flourish set on youth 

And delves the parallels in beauty’s brow, 

Feeds on the rarities of nature’s truth, 

And nothing stands but for his scythe to mow: 

And yet to times in hope my verse shall stand, 

Praising thy worth, despite his cruel hand.

Ken Partidge

Ken Partridge is a contributor at My East Coast Experience Media. He is a 34-year veteran of the Halifax journalism scene and worked at both the local and national levels to help provide better resources for journalists.

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