Maple Ridge’s Somaya Amiri is one of 20 Canadian students receiving a McCall MacBain scholarship for studies at McGill.
She completed a bachelor of arts degree in political science at the Montreal university, and will pursue a law degree starting in September 2021 thanks to the program, which is in its inaugural year.
“I feel quite privileged to have the access (to the scholarship),” Amiri said.
The 23-year-old has had to work extremely hard, and seek out every opportunity available to her since moving to B.C. from Behsud, Afghanistan at the end of 2011.
“My life in Afghanistan was completely different in every regard,” she recalled.
“Coming to Canada in the middle of Grade 9 was a huge culture shock, but I had the support of many amazing community organizations in high school, as well as the refugee community.”
Shortly after Grade 11 started for Amiri, she began thinking about what it was going to take to pursue a post-secondary education.
“I went to my career counsellor and asked them what I could do,” she said, noting her parents could not afford to send her to university.
Amiri said she was provided with a big list of scholarships available, and she diligently went through them all.
“I went back and forth to different teachers, my counsellor, and youth workers to constantly ask for help applying for things,” she said.
“And that gave me a confidence and trust in myself.”
If there is advice she could pass along to other bright students facing financial challenges, Amiri said it would be to pursue these scholarships.
“A lot of them go unclaimed because young people don’t apply,” she said. “I know so many amazing people from marginalized communities who did not have the confidence in themselves to pursue these scholarships.
“They’re scared or worried when they see words like service and leadership, as they can be daunting for young people.”
Amiri said it would be nice if counsellors and teachers could talk to their students even more about scholarships opportunities.
“When people trust in your future, you gain trust in yourself,” she said.
While studying at McGill, Amiri has done her best to extend a helping hand to others.
She was inspired to start a student group to support other immigrants and refugees at the university, and also volunteered with McGill’s comparative health club for four years, during which she organized a 150-person conference on women’s health.
Amiri does not have specific plans on what she will do after law school. She currently works as a parliamentary intern, so possible roles as a policy advisor, a lawyer, or aiding not-for-profits are all on the table.
“I’m very open, and don’t want to be too rigid on my next steps. The sky’s the limit,” she said.
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