By Natalie Bruckner

Dhruvi Raichada, a fourth-year BCom student at Gustavson, has undergone a remarkable transformation from her introverted past in her homeland of India. Despite her demanding academic schedule, she manages to balance a part-time job alongside her co-op work term, serves as the president of UMANG: UVic Indian Students’ Association, acts as a mentor to fellow international students and is actively involved in numerous events around campus.

“I wasn’t always like this,” Raichada laughs. “I came here from Mumbai with no experience and minimal life skills, and I most certainly never got involved in extracurricular activities!”

Her decision to relocate from Mumbai to Canada was largely influenced by her sister who had graduated from UVic with a degree in psychology. “That was a motivating factor for me to apply to UVic. The cultural shock can often be the most daunting, but her presence and the support system provided by UMANG helped me navigate my new surroundings,” she says.

Raichada attributes her integration into a new culture to the guidance provided by her sister and Gustavson staffperson Daniel Nair, who encouraged her to participate in extracurricular activities during her pre-core years to secure a place at Gustavson in year three. (Gustavson’s BCom program follows a two-plus-two model that allows students flexibility in their first two years to try a range of courses at UVic, before starting their business-intensive coursework in year three.)

“I wanted to demonstrate that I was an active and engaged member of the community,” she says.

The hard work paid off. After two years at UVic, Raichada applied for core-year admission into the Gustavson BCom program and was accepted. “When I first arrived in Canada, I was set on pursuing a career in accounting. I had taken an accounting course in high school and found it interesting. After exploring the options available at Gustavson, I found the BCom program to be both fascinating and exciting. It would allow me to pursue my goal to become a CPA [chartered professional accountant], while also being cross-disciplinary and giving me knowledge of other areas of business.”

One of the most impactful courses for Raichada has been COM 321, which covers organizational behavior and theory. “This course provided me with a profound understanding of how individuals from diverse cultural backgrounds react and behave. The professor provides real-world examples, which greatly enhanced my comprehension and ability to apply the material, enabling me to grasp the nuances of cultural integration with greater acumen,” she says.

In addition to her academic pursuits, Raichada has also actively sought out opportunities to immerse herself in the Canadian culture through her involvement in various student organizations. Being able to experience a little home-away-from-home also helped her settle in and gave her the confidence to get out there. “I joined UMANG in my first year because my sister was a part of it. It allowed me to instantly be a part of something. Having a community is so important for international students—it makes you more comfortable and acts as a stepping stone in integrating. You know you have people who can help you out.”

When COVID hit, UMANG went on hiatus, but as soon as restrictions were lifted Raichada stepped up and took on the role of president for UMANG, with the goal of mentoring and helping other international students navigate the challenges of adjusting to a new culture.

Raichada is quite the mentor, too. Her achievements since her arrival in Canada are truly impressive, particularly for someone who identifies as shy. From serving as the President of Young Women in Business in 2021, to being a member of the international business team for the JDC West competition, to her role as a former Engage Leader for Global Students—her resiliency and determination are evident. Furthermore, she is currently participating in her third co-op work term, which has solidified her passion for accounting and her goal of becoming a CPA.

“During my first co-op term I worked as the events coordinator for the Fairway Gorge Paddling Club. That exposed me to an entirely new demographic, but it also helped me realize that wasn’t my calling. Currently, I am working as an investment accounting co-op student at BCI [British Columbia Investment Management Corporation] to get real world experience in the accounting industry. I love the problem-solving aspect of it.”

As Raichada slowly comes to the end of her BCom, she reflects on her journey and the advice she would have given to her younger self: “I would have said to reach out to professors more. There is often a fear of judgment, but by interacting with professors you gain valuable insights into their experiences and perspectives, which can be beneficial for networking and professional development.”

To fellow international students, she advises, “Find a community that you feel most comfortable in—it will provide exposure to a diverse range of individuals and facilitate a smoother transition into a new culture.”