Scholarship winner inadvertently collects countries

By Elaine Smith

By the time he started classes at York University this fall, international student Aina Yoann found himself living in the fifth country of his young life.

Yoann, who was awarded a prestigious International Academic Excellence Scholarship, was born in Madagascar, but relocated periodically as his father’s career demanded. At age four, his family moved to Japan. When he was 11, they settled in Botswana. In December, they relocated to Senegal, and now, Yoann is in Canada to earn a BA in computer science at the Lassonde School of Engineering.

“I had no idea where I’d go after high school, but friends mentioned Canada, so I did some research and was interested,” Yoann said. “York was my first choice. I’d heard it was a very diverse community and I heard about the good resources for students. It was also quite competitive for sports, and I love sports, so I thought I’d fit very well.”

He was happy to receive a scholarship, as were his parents, especially given his academic standing as one of the top students in his high school. In fact, given his travels, Yoann speaks four languages: Malagasy, Japanese, English and French.

With his family so far away, Yoann is living in residence and he’s enjoying the experience.

“I love Canada; the people are friendly and I’m loving the environment,” Yoann said. “Toronto seems similar to Japan in infrastructure and development, and I feel safe here. The workload is greater than I expected, but I’ll get used to it. The professors are quite friendly and approachable.”

He is exploring the club possibilities and is playing intramural soccer to feed his passion for this favourite sport with an eye toward trying out for the varsity team once he becomes accustomed to the university routine and course demands.

“Clubs are a way to make good friends, as opposed to classes, where the people change,” he said. “Club members will always be there.”

Living on his own for the first time means no home cooking and the responsibility for time management and chores such as doing the laundry.

“There are pros and cons to going away to school. It’s nice to have the freedom and independence, but when it comes to household tasks, I still miss having my parents around. However, I hope and believe that I made a good choice.”