How this former international student found her footing to build a new life in Toronto

She adapted to life beyond the familiar with a little help from her friends

Nidhi Ahire, Associate Media Planner at Critical Mass, sits with her laptop as she completes work in front of the University of Toronto's Hart House building on May 29, 2024. (Theresa Balocating/Toronto Observer) 

When Nidhi Ahire landed in Toronto from India in September 2021, she did not know what wonders and explorations she would make as a student in this new place, especially in a city reshaped by COVID-19.

Raised in the comfort of being surrounded by family, Ahire faced a stark reality upon arriving in a foreign country. She was alone and tasked with navigating the challenges of settling in and building a life for herself in Toronto.  

In 2024, two and a half years later, Ahire describes the experience as “Life 101,” highlighting how every aspect of relocating from Mumbai to Toronto has been a learning journey that has fostered hyper-independence and taught her a lot about herself.

“I think every change helps you build your life,” she said. “And in hindsight, I think all the changes that made me feel like a setback in my life, were actually good things.” 

Life 101

Upon her arrival in Toronto, Nidhi recognized the need to manage a variety of responsibilities on her own. These tasks included finding her own place to rent, handling taxes, and even shopping for groceries and cooking for herself.

She said her daily life, tasks and role are different from what she would have undertaken had she remained in India due to her independent responsibilities.

Yog Dadhania, 26, a friend and former housemate of Ahire, has known her since completing their undergraduate degree together back in India. They arrived in Toronto just two days apart from each other. His best memory with her was when they initially looked for places to rent together.

“It can be really challenging just figuring your way around and how to create a new life from scratch,” Dadhania said.

“It almost feels like you’re just getting thrown into the deep end.”

The friends’ difficulties in adjusting to life in Canada are similar to numerous international students in Toronto.

In 2023, Canada welcomed more than one million international students, reflecting a growth of more than two hundred thousand from 2021 to 2023. Ontario led the nation in hosting international students, accounting for 51 per cent of the total.

A key ingredient: friendship

Ahire and Dadhania’s friendship during this transition to a new country brought a strong sense of comfort and stability, grounding them both as they adjusted to their new life in Toronto.

Ahire values her friendships and considers them integral in her life. “I believe friendships or relationships of any kind, and the authenticity that they bring in, helps me a lot,” she said.

She enjoys the time she spends with others, identifying herself as a “serial extrovert,” emphasizing how much she values connection with her friends and family. 

Prima D’souza, 31, is a close friend of Ahire’s, who has witnessed her navigate throughout the transition from graduation to working life.

They first met while interning together at Publicis Media in 2022. “We just knew instantly that we were meant to be friends,” D’souza said.  

“She’s very good at maintaining relationships with people, very good at communicating things, and very good at her job,” D’souza added. 

Ahire has also made it a point to get involved and explore the city as much as possible. She manages stress by exploring her hobbies and interests around the city, whether it is participating in Bachata dance sessions, attending socials, or exploring new cafes on her personal category-coded map of Toronto.

Nidhi Ahire photographed in front of the Toronto skyline taken on May 29, 2024, in Robarts Library. (Theresa Balocating/Toronto Observer)

The next chapter

Having graduated from Seneca College in May 2023, Ahire has spent the past year navigating the transition into post-academic life, seeking to define her career path. 

“When I started looking for jobs, I understood the struggles that everyone was talking about,” she said.

“I went to a lot of networking events which made me understand more about the industry that I’m in and also met people who are in different parts of their [career] when it comes to corporate life,” Ahire said.

“It was interesting to understand what their journey has been and what part of that I need to [incorporate] into mine.”

Currently working as an Associate Media Planner at Critical Mass, Ahire likes working with media planning and strategy, a combination of both that this position offers. 

“I really enjoy digital marketing, it is something that I’m super passionate about,” she said. “If you were to wake me up at 3 a.m., I would happily do any tasks that you want me to. So I genuinely love it and I want to explore that.” 

Transitioning from a recent graduate to a new full-time job has marked a significant shift in Ahire’s life, defining her identity in the corporate world and solidifying the life she has built for herself in Toronto.

“Feeling that someone’s life is a little bit ahead of yours,” is a challenge that Ahire faced. She often found herself comparing other people’s milestones to her own achievements in both her corporate and personal life.

Over time, she has learned to own her achievements and assures herself that it is “OK to feel the way you’re feeling,” demonstrating true authenticity even when things do not seem like they are going smoothly. 

“It’s absolutely OK and your journey is valid,” she said, “the way that you’re leading your life is completely valid.” 

Looking forward, reflecting back

Despite the challenges of life after graduation — Ahire continues to adapt and find new ways to stay grounded in herself. The challenge is something that she thrives off of.

“I enjoy when things are more challenging because I think if things are simple, I start to get more complacent,” she said.

When asked where she sees herself in 10 years, Ahire reflected on the things she has accomplished thus far in her 24 years. “Putting things into perspective, I knew that I would want to explore a life outside of India, but I didn’t anticipate that this would come true.”

In 10 years, she hopes to deepen her understanding of the strategic aspects of her job and become more acquainted with the industry she is in.

If Ahire could offer advice to her past self as she stepped off that airplane in 2021, she would tell herself that she’s not alone.

“As someone who is an immigrant, you experience a lot of different things that people around you might not. That can give you imposter syndrome, or a feeling that you don’t belong here … But there are people out there like you.

“You deserve to be in the spot that you are in.” 

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Posted: Jun 17 2024 12:30 pm
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