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Calls grow to ensure international students feel at home in September

London, Ont. -

Western University and Fanshawe College is a second home for many international students, but do they all feel welcome? And could the alleged terrorist incident on June 6 make it harder to attract new international students?

“As the events played out, it’s like I am not really safe anywhere.”

Some international students at Western and Fanshawe are struggling in recent days to feel secure in the London Ont., community.

For Muslim student, Areej Ansari it's important to change that.

“As a visibly Muslim girl I have had classmates tell me to just take it off (points to hijab) and stuff like that is not acceptable.”

As of this school year, 16 per cent of Western’s student population is international, with 37 per cent making up Fanshawe’s student population.

The Muslim Student Association at Western (MSA), says the key is not just saying students are welcome, but by reflecting their needs on campus.

Ansari says this can happen, by creating more prayer rooms on campus and being conscious of exam periods not falling on Muslim holidays.

Chris Alleyne, Associate Vice-President Housing & Ancillary services at Western University, says the university is committed to working closely with international students - voicing this is just the beginning of steps to come to promote equity, diversity and inclusion on campus.

‘Western is committed to creating a safe and vibrant community that supports diversity and supports our incoming students. I think the most recent horrible murders we saw are raising some increased levels of concerns and worry, so my offer to them is to reach out to us.’

Four members of the Afzaal family were killed June 6 when they were hit by a vehicle while out for a walk in their neighbourhood.

Nathaniel Veltman, 20, was arrested shortly after and charged with four-counts of first-degree murder and one count of attempted murder. Police have said that they believe Veltman did not know the family, but targeted them with his vehicle because of their Muslim faith.

A London Mosque spokesperson, Zeba Hashmi, says members of the mosque do their best to make sure new Canadians feel at home in London Ont.

“This is their home. I remember when I was new to London from Saskatchewan, this was the first place I headed to, the mosque. This is the place to find your future friends and you connect through the city through the mosque.”

Areej Ansari, says at the end of the day, it’s up to those non-international students to make everyone feel safe at school come September.

“I think as the odd one out it's hard to stand up for yourself, you shouldn’t put them in a position where they feel vulnerable either, because that is when they assimilate just to fit in.” Top Stories


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