Starting a new chapter in life inevitably causes stress. When that new chapter involves relocating, potential stressors increase. Now imagine that journey involves travelling to a place vastly different than anywhere you’ve ever been — new climate, unfamiliar culture, language, food, landscape. That’s exactly what international alum Amit Thakur (BBA ’11) faced when he began his journey at TRU in 2007.
Thakur was born and raised in Muscat, Oman, but holds Indian citizenship. He attended Indian School Muscat with more than 9,000 students. Touching down in Kamloops after living in a bustling urban centre was a huge change. Due to complications beyond his control, Thakur did not arrive at TRU until the first day of classes, missing orientation and feeling “completely clueless.”
Ever resilient, Thakur shrugs the transition off as a rough patch and credits his international student advisor Reyna Denison with helping him get sorted quickly upon his arrival.
Soon after, the young marketing student joined the masters swim club and began hosting a weekly show on campus radio station CFBX 92.5 FM, sharing Indian music and culture. That’s where he says the idea first came to him to revitalize a stagnant India Club.
“The plan was to engage Indian students and maybe introduce Indian culture to locals as well,” says Thakur. “Let people know there’s more to Indian culture than just butter chicken.”
Thakur found support and mentorship within the university. Together a small group began planning a few events and then witnessed the club’s membership numbers start to take off.
Embracing and sharing culture
“Word quickly spread because there was a growing group of Indian kids at TRU looking to connect with the Indian community in Kamloops,” he says, adding the university club soon joined forces with a community club to maximize their exposure. “There were a lot of people from the community that supported us and really made a difference.”
The club’s mission is “to bring events that encourage a mix of our beautiful cultures and make a home for students away from home. The club aims to bring the Indian community closer while also engaging with the diverse culture here in Kamloops.”
Affiliated with the Thompson Rivers University Student Union (TRUSU), India Club celebrates festivals and diversity relevant to Indian culture. In the past, the club has organized various events celebrating Diwali, Holi, Vaisakhi and Ram Navami. Diwali and Rang De Basanti, a Holi celebration, have emerged as signature club events.
By the time Thakur graduated in 2011, the India Club was organizing events with major sponsors and generating high attendance numbers. In the ensuing years, the club’s membership on its Facebook page has grown to more than 7,000 members. Ruchika Shetty is the club’s current president and she says participation in the club continues to be a great way to help new students navigate through a new country and culture.
BC becomes home
As for Thakur, he fell in love with the BC mountains and made the province his permanent home. He lives and works in the Lower Mainland, where he is the branch manager at City Electric Supply (C.E.S), a Canadian company that’s part of a privately owned electrical wholesale network. When he’s not working, chances are good he’s exploring somewhere.
“I’m a big fan of the outdoors. I love the mountains. I love hiking. I love kayaking,” he says. “I’ve had opportunities to go work in other places, but I’ve always said no to them because of the lifestyle we have here. There are not many places in the world where within 30 minutes you can be on the ocean or in the mountains. Where else would I want to be?”
He is considering doing his MBA soon, spurred on by fond memories of his time at TRU. In spite of the culture shock he experienced when he first arrived, he says he found Kamloops to be welcoming and friendly. He has kept connections at TRU World and has recruited and hired several students to work for C.E.S.
Thakur’s best advice to other students crossing continents to attend TRU? Make the most of the opportunity. Keep busy. Learn lots. And share your culture.