Jagrit Bajwa isn't just living the Canadian dream — he's living proof that opportunity, work ethic and a NAIT education open doors to a better future.
In 2015, Bajwa left behind everyone he knew to move halfway across the world in pursuit of a degree in Bachelor of Applied Business Administration in Accounting. An international student from India, he arrived in Edmonton on New Year's Day, in the middle of a deep-freeze.
The cold, like Canada itself, was a bit of a shock.
"I had never seen snow," Bajwa says. "I was jobless. In one year, I changed my room 3 times. I was living with strangers, away from family."
Resources at NAIT and in the community made the transition easier, especially when funds were tight. Bajway says he’s particularly grateful to the NAITSA Food Bank and Langar, a free kitchen run by Gurdwara, a Sikh temple in Millwoods.
New family at NAIT International Centre
It wasn't long before Bajwa found a new family at NAIT and the International Centre in particular. Despite cultural and language differences, students from all over the world shared a common bond. Many, like Bajwa, shared a dream of building a better life.
"I never worked in India. I had a bachelor's degree, but I never had any experience. I came to Canada and to NAIT because I wanted to start where I could grow beyond my limitations."
It didn't take long for Bajwa, who classmates nicknamed "Jaguar," to find his stride.
He ran for student's council twice, displayed his hip-hop skills at Global Village, aided fellow NAIT students as a peer mentor, and landed a co-op placement with the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA). In winter 2017, he was also invited to the United Nations as a youth delegate after being a finalist in a social venture challenge.
Social issues are close to Bajwa's heart, a product of his Sikh faith and growing up surrounded by injustice and corruption. He's written hip-hop songs – in Punjabi and Hindu – about female empowerment and is currently building two startups.
One of those startups, El Jaguar Sports Canada Inc., focuses on helping youth cricket players become community leaders. In return for community volunteer work, you players would receive sponsorship opportunities and help with meals. The idea is borne from his own experiences playing cricket in India, where players from poor families are at risk of addiction and crime.
“In India, thousands of hard working youth from poor families rely on cricket to change their lives. Only a handful of them get bigger chances.”
His second start-up, the not-for-profit Be YOU, is dedicated to working against hate crimes, stereotypes, and bullying – online and in the real world – and addressing issues regarding anxiety and depression.
Less than a year after graduation, when he knelt down on the convocation stage to show his gratitude, Bajwa landed a permanent job with the CRA and is "proud to serve Canadians."
"It's a dream come true," he says.
Scholarships for international students
Bajwa says he's grateful for all the support he received from NAIT, including scholarships like the International Experience Award. Every donation that supports students makes a huge difference, he says, especially for international students.
"When you invest in someone, they can build a better reputation, they can build a network for people to become great individuals."
Bajwa hopes to return the favour and one day hire international students for his startups. He continues to stay connected to campus, organizing Bhangra dance events and will perform at this year's Global Village in March. The event will include a turban booth where people of all cultures can learn how to tie a turban and about their cultural significance.
"NAIT has inspired me. NAIT has remarkably transformed me [at a time] when I was feeling like nothing," he says. "I'm so very grateful."