A Yemeni Student’s Triumph at McMaster University Sparks Viral Inspiration

Initial Thoughts on Applying to McMaster University:

In my search for a college experience that transcended the traditional confines of business education, I casted a wide net, applying to universities across Europe and North America. From programs integrating business with technology to innovative approaches such as Gallatin’s individualized study and IE University’s Business Design, I searched for a curriculum that truly embraced interdisciplinary perspectives. During the final stages of my search, I received an opportunity to interview for McMaster’s newly minted Integrated Business and Humanities (IBH) program. During the interview, Dr. Emad, the IBH program director, embodied everything I’d heard about Canadian society – warm, genuine, and incredibly friendly. Our conversation during the interview went beyond the typical formalities, delving into personal anecdotes and shared values. 

This sense of belonging I felt after the interview was the driver that drew me towards accepting the offer.

McMaster seemed to offer the perfect fusion of the academic rigor I was seeking and a supportive, inclusive environment. Reflecting on my decision to join the IBH program, I can confidently say that my instincts were spot on. I moved across the world to an entirely new environment, but somehow, the people I have met here have made it feel just like home. And for that, I am eternally grateful.

4 Tips for Writing a Successful Visa Application:

1. Understand your positionality: Recognize the political and cultural context surrounding your application. There may be parts of your identity as an applicant that make you more susceptible to a visa rejection. Take the time to understand these factors and make sure your application includes comprehensive evidence that speaks to your credibility.

2. Thorough research: Dive into the details of the application process and get an understanding of past visa applicant’s experiences. Don’t overlook “optional” sections—they may hold more weight than you realize. Take every opportunity to provide detailed explanations and emphasize your dedication to your education. Also ensure to research any entities requesting access to your information or funds for consultation.

3. Ensure clarity and organization: Include a table of contents within your main application document. This table should comprehensively outline all the information included across your entire application package, including the title, page number, and document location of each section. By prioritizing clarity and organization, you enhance the readability of your application and empower the visa officer to efficiently assess your case.

4. Persistence: Don’t give up. Visa applications can be challenging, but perseverance is key. If your application is rejected, take the time to study your case, gather additional evidence, and reapply.

Challenges Faced During the Visa Application Process:

Especially given my Yemeni nationality, my journey to obtain a Canadian visa was tumultuous. When I began the visa application process, I encountered a number of biases about my intentions and background, which complicated an already challenging process. Despite meticulous preparation and adherence to guidelines, the reasons behind my first visa refusal were ambiguous. Since I had missed the deadline to commit to any of the other universities I had been accepted to, it was a disheartening setback, leaving me to ponder my next steps with uncertainty. While seeking legal advice, I unfortunately became entangled in an online scam that offered to provide a detailed document from the IRCC under the Access to Information Act. While the actual cost of obtaining the document from the IRCC is only $5, the lawyer’s deceptive practices led me to pay $150.

Moreover, the anticipated helpful information turned out to be a disappointment as it merely reiterated the grounds of my initial refusal – familial ties. These grounds deemed valid as I was not being married, did not own property or a vehicle, and did not have any substantial investments in my home country. Discovering this at the age of 18 was particularly disheartening as these were conditions I could not easily change, highlighting the unreasonable challenges and expectations faced by young applicants navigating complex bureaucratic processes.

Undeterred by setbacks, I turned to Dina, an immigration consultant recommended by a trusted friend. She became an invaluable ally, providing steadfast support and guidance throughout the entire process. Together, we carefully built a compelling case that highlighted my strong ties to Saudi Arabia—my birthplace and the home of my entire extended family. We included testimonials from my McMaster University professors, comprehensive financial statements, and essays that articulated my academic and professional aspirations. Despite our thorough preparation, the visa application was again rejected. 😔 

Feeling a deep connection with my professors and peers at McMaster, Canada started to feel like a potential new home. Faced with the challenge of being the only online student during the program’s transition back to in-person classes post-COVID, I advocated for myself by reaching out to my professors and explaining my unique circumstances. Dr. Emad’s unwavering support helped me continue my studies. Determined not to declare defeat prematurely, I made a promise to myself: I would make one final attempt to ensure that I had left no stone unturned.

My resolve strengthened, and I decided to explore every unconventional avenue at my disposal. This led me to initiate a grassroots campaign, sending emails to every Ontario MP I could find, despite barely understanding Canadian geography. I even reached out to the mayor of Hamilton and other influential figures, hoping for guidance. The initial silence was disheartening, but I refused to lose hope.

When responses finally began to trickle in, they often stated they couldn’t help because I wasn’t a constituent. A glimmer of hope appeared when a few individuals suggested reaching out to a specific MP. Yet, after not receiving a reply back from them for an extended period, I crafted a compelling email template and rallied my IBH student cohort to join the outreach efforts to that MP. After sending nearly 50 emails, a response finally arrived with the disappointing news of their inability to assist. Nonetheless, I persisted and continued fighting until someone was willing to hear my case. My persistence paid off when one of the MPs whom I had initially contacted expressed genuine investment in my educational journey, offering to support my plea in my final visa application.

Boosted by this new support, I submitted my application once more. After a long and trying journey, filled with learning and persistence, I finally received my approved visa. This victory was sweeter for the community and support that had rallied behind me, a vivid reminder of the power of resilience and collective effort.

Staying Motivated and Resilient:

My support system played a crucial role in keeping me grounded and motivated throughout this challenging journey. My family, in particular, provided unwavering support, constantly encouraging me to persevere and trust my instincts. A special thanks go to my father, whose wisdom and anecdotes served as a source of reassurance during the toughest moments, reminding me that everything would eventually fall into place.

My friends also served as a pillar of strength, offering grounding support and reminding me of the boundless possibilities that lay ahead, regardless of the constraints imposed by my passport. Their encouragement helped me stay focused and determined to pursue my dreams, no matter the obstacles.

I am also immensely grateful to the IBH program and its Director, Professor Emad Mohammed, for their unwavering support. Despite being oceans away, Professor Emad went above and beyond to ensure I could continue my studies seamlessly throughout the visa application process.

Additionally, the students in the program went out of their way to keep me included and informed, even amidst the challenges of time differences and academic demands.

As someone who has always grappled with anxiety about the future and the need for control, this journey tested every aspect of my being. My education, something I held dear and had worked tirelessly to attain, was on the line. Every day brought uncertainty about my status as a student and the realization that my childhood dreams of studying abroad hung in the balance.

Yet, amidst the uncertainty and fear, I emerged not only victorious but also profoundly transformed. I gained a newfound sense of emotional resilience, maturity, and self-awareness. I learned that despite the challenges and setbacks, everything eventually falls into place, and even the most daunting obstacles are not insurmountable. It’s a lesson I carry with me as I continue to navigate life’s uncertainties with courage and determination.

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Advice for Fellow International Students:

Trust yourself and your aspirations for the future. Regardless of where you end up or the path you take to get there, believe that you will thrive. The decision to pursue education abroad demands immense courage and determination, as it often involves stepping outside of your comfort zone in numerous ways—culturally, linguistically, and environmentally. If you’ve already secured acceptance to prestigious universities, know that you possess the intelligence and resilience needed to succeed, whether at your current institution or elsewhere.

Reflecting on the Journey:

Reflecting on my journey towards obtaining my visa, I’ve come to realize that the most rewarding aspects extend far beyond the sheer relief of finally securing it, and the fulfillment of my childhood dreams of studying abroad. Amidst the trials and tribulations, the true treasures of this journey lie in the profound relationships I’ve forged and the remarkable personal growth I’ve undergone.

In the face of adversity, I discovered the unwavering support and unconditional love of my family, who stood by me through every setback and uncertainty. Their steadfast belief in me fueled my determination to keep pushing forward. Similarly, my friends became pillars of strength, offering a constant source of encouragement and camaraderie even during the darkest of times.

But perhaps the most transformative aspect of this journey has been the profound evolution within myself. Through the challenges and obstacles, I unearthed a resilience I didn’t know I possessed. I learned to trust in my abilities and to persevere in the face of adversity with unwavering determination. I am filled with an overwhelming sense of gratitude for this journey. Every day, I wake up with a renewed sense of purpose and gratitude, cherishing the journey that has brought me to where I am today. This experience has instilled in me a deep-seated belief in the limitless potential that lies within each of us. It serves as a poignant reminder that no dream is too grand, and no obstacle too insurmountable, as long as we dare to believe in ourselves and have the resilience to keep pushing forward.

Finding Strength in Adversity:

My experiences as an international student in Canada have deeply influenced my future academic and career pursuits. Feeling the weight of limitations imposed by factors beyond my control, such as nationality, has heightened my awareness of the need for better systems and empowerment for marginalized communities, especially women. I am committed to incorporating these values and my unique perspective as I navigate my academic and professional journey. Recently, I’ve been drawn to the growing impact investing sphere. I envision building a career in this field, striving to grow while uplifting others, and remaining mindful of the lessons and values instilled in me by my journey.

Reflecting on my time as an international student, the lessons learned are vast and invaluable. From mastering simple tasks like recycling garbage to navigating subtle social cues, every experience has contributed to my growth. While the transition wasn’t easy, being an international student has been incredibly rewarding. Despite initial culture shock and anxiety, I learned to embrace the journey one day at a time. It took a year to feel settled, but the journey of discovery continues. I’ve learned to be open, socialize, and embrace new experiences. By immersing myself in campus life, joining clubs, and being authentic, I’ve formed meaningful connections and found my place. My advice to fellow international students: embrace the journey, take it one step at a time, and be open to the enriching experiences awaiting you.


Lastly, I’d like to share a piece of wisdom that has guided me through my journey: don’t spend your life dwelling on what you can’t control. Let go of the “could haves” and “what ifs,” and focus on what you can do in the present moment. Trust that things will work out, that you’ll persevere, and that you’ll be okay. Even in my darkest moments, I found solace in the support networks around me.

Each time I faced a visa rejection, the outpouring of love from my family and friends lifted me and reminded me of my worth beyond a piece of paper.

MangoVisa plays a crucial role in supporting international students, offering a lifeline to navigate the visa journey with greater ease. By providing a reliable support system, MangoVisa aims to empower students to succeed from the outset, sparing them from the hardships I endured. This platform safeguards applicants from fraudulent practices and ensures a smoother process from start to finish. 

Kudos to Kushi for transforming challenges into opportunities and for creating such a valuable resource for the international student community. I’m eager to witness the positive impact MangoVisa will continue to make in the future. 


Before you go, If you liked this feature then connect with Lama on Linkedin: Lama – Linkedin


MangoVisa is not a law firm and does not provide legal services, legal advice, or function as a lawyer referral service. While we strive to provide a reliable platform, MangoVisa does not warrant or guarantee the accuracy, completeness, or reliability of any information on the platform.

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