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Keeping it real during times of transition

Chelsea Tho (BCom ’24), incoming President of the Rotman Commerce Student Association (RCSA), is no stranger to adapting quickly to changing environments. As an international student from Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, Chelsea shares how resilience was her strength during her transition to university.


The transition to Rotman Commerce

Transitioning to university as an international student was tough for Chelsea initially. “I spent my first year at RC studying virtually at home in Malaysia. I found myself staying up for classes, tests, meetings, events, coffee chats, and interviews at odd hours such as 3 AM to 6 AM.” Her virtual interactions with peers made it hard to develop meaningful, real friendships—or even a friend group. This just made her that much more motivated upon her arrival in Toronto for her second year; she found others in the same position who were as eager to build relationships.

Challenges coming to Canada

Dealing with the cold winters, setting up a local bank account, and buying groceries—these were all everyday adjustments for Chelsea. Though they appeared mundane, these tasks—coupled with her schoolwork—were at times overwhelming. “I feared the reality of having to adapt to my new life in Canada as a university student.” Today, on reflection, she extends gratitude to her friends at RC who constantly lent a hand. What jacket was best for the cold weather? Which grocery store had the best value for money? Her friends were always there with steady advice.  

Adapting to life in Toronto

Chelsea had to quickly adapt to local norms that differed from her own cultural norms. Prices for simple necessities quickly became large expenses; the cost of living was five times that of what Chelsea had known. “For the first couple months I had to repeatedly remind myself not to convert the currencies to avoid occupying my mind with the extent of my expenses.” Coming from a country where it is summer all year, to now facing temperatures in the negative twenties, adapting to the significant shift in weather was a struggle. “There were the occasional headaches from the cold, fingers turning numb and moments I longed for the summer heat. Nonetheless, I managed to adapt to the cold within weeks.”

Don’t be afraid to ask for help

Chelsea urges incoming students to not be afraid to ask for help. “I only learned that it is OK to go to my friends for help with my courses in my second year. Reach out when you’re struggling! You will have classmates, friends, and resources at RC who will help you immensely with understanding and applying course content.”  

Building meaningful connections—both personal and professional—is important to develop a network.

“As an international student, take the initiative to meet people from different backgrounds. I have learnt so much about different cultures from the friends I have made here; this allowed me to have a more open-minded and diverse perspective.”  

Chelsea Tho (BCom ’24)

First steps as a leader

Looking ahead for RCSA, Chelsea hopes to grow its online and in-person engagement, drawing on her experience transitioning to life in the RC community. “I’m excited about our events this year. I hope all RC students will find something they can take advantage of. We’ll be providing our students with opportunities to develop personally, academically, and professionally—all while building a stronger and more connected RC community.”

Chelsea aspires to be a supportive leader that provides her team with the direction and resources needed to accomplish individual goals. “I intend to be empowering through active communication, passion and enthusiasm so I can foster positive relationships with my team.” 

May 27, 2022

Navi Mental Health Wayfinder