Immigrant Welcome Centre

Free Professional Services for Immigrants & Newcomers

Thriving Together 6: Doing the Best I Can In Spite of Challenges of the Pandemic


My name is Reo Hashimoto and I am from Tokyo, Japan. It is a very busy city with tons of people everywhere unlike here. There isn't any craziness here because it is much smaller and calmer. I am here for an exchange program that started in January 2020 and hope to stay till December. I have been learning English for a few years and living here has strengthened my vocabulary.

I love to exercise so before COVID-19, I would go to the sportplex to play a lot of basketball. I really love basketball and I am really interested in Africa. I was in Rwanda last summer. I am aware that the NBA is trying to establish a pro-basketball league in Africa. Pascal Siakam who plays for the Toronto Raptors is my favourite player and he is from Cameroon. I like Joel Embiid and Stephen Curry too.

My exchange program is intensive. My school is very focused on English learning. We have 7 classes in a day and 5 of them are in English. I totally enjoy them and I have learned to build confidence, especially with pronunciations. I have also been watching a lot of movies and TV shows on Netflix. When COVID first hit, I had a stomach ache because I was so stressed out that I couldn't go out to do the things I love and enjoy. Watching TV or Netflix was what made me relax. I also love music. I like Justin Bieber. I saw him one time in Tokyo, he was walking down the street with several of his bodyguards and I was with my family. He had his glasses frame in his mouth. It was pretty exciting. I like the Backstreet Boys, although I know only one song, "I Want It That Way". I like Ed Sheeran and Drake too.

As an international student, we are supposed to improve our English by hanging out and having conversations with our friends so I was kind of worried whether my English was improving or not. In spite of the pandemic, I have found that watching movies also help to improve my English. I can express myself and my emotions better. I have also made a lot of Canadian friends. There are so many, especially while playing basketball. I try to keep in touch with them using TEAMS and I sometimes hang out with them too. I still hung out with them a few weeks ago. My host family has a 20-year-old son so we hang out together too. The family takes me out for walks, or a drive. They are also planning to take me to a lot of places this summer and that is really appreciated. I am looking forward to all those exciting adventures.

I like that I got the opportunity to volunteer with Habitat for Humanity and I am helping to build houses. I really enjoy it and we have a lot of conversations at work, like during coffee break and lunch time. It makes me feel like I am part of this community.

Reo Hashimoto volunteering with Habitat for Humanity

I have experienced some discrimination though. Someone actually threw eggs at me. I was playing basketball around my house but I was wearing my headphones and throwing basketball so I couldn't see who it was. I just realized an egg was coming towards me. It was pretty crazy. I didn't feel sad but I was very surprised. People sometimes say, go back to China but I am Japanese. I realize people cannot really tell Asians apart, like Koreans, Chinese, etc. Some people point at me and laugh while driving away. I mean, it's pretty sad but it's our fate and I'm kind of used to it. With the recent Black Lives Matter protests, people are focused on human rights so racial matters are at the forefront. I hope people learn. There should be more conversations around Racial Equality and celebrating cultures. For instance, Japanese people love to show appreciation. We have many ways to express respect. We are very respectful people.

If it wasn't for the COVID-19, and everything was normal, it would be nice to have an event with people from overseas. It would be pretty exciting to have people from all over the world share what we feel about Canada as a whole. There could be a collaborative gathering between the Immigrant Welcome Centre and International students. It would be great.

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