Jimmy Li

When Jimmy Li, HBA’17, looks back at his experience as an international student at Western, he is most grateful for the connections he made and the lessons he learned.  

Li first made the decision to apply to Western after being seated next to Western’s then-President Amit Chakma during an event at his international high school in China in 11th grade.  

Moving to Canada and away from his family was a challenging transition. In his first year, Li applied to be matched with a student mentor through the International Peer Guide program after meeting some peer guides who were taking part in another welcome program for new students.  

“They were very, very helpful. They made us feel welcome, right from the get-go. I wanted to apply for a peer guide who would be able to help me like they did,” he said. “To me, [the value of the program] is about reaching out for help if you need to, or if you feel like you’re struggling. And, just to know that there are resources, there are people who are willing to help and also that it's okay to reach out for help.”  

In his second year, Li applied to become a peer guide himself, hoping to do for others what his peer guide had done for him.  

“I felt that I could share my experiences and help others acclimate to the environment, and I generally like helping others,” said Li. “As peer guides, we are also a part of a big family. I would always feel relief after a full day of classes, or just in the middle of exams, knowing that I could go to a peer guide meeting. Staff would be there, and they would bring treats, people would share stories, just chat and relax. That was very important to me – that was something that made me feel that I belonged, in the midst of everything that was happening in my university days.”  

Being a peer guide was a commitment that Li decided to continue until he graduated; it also led him to his first job working part-time as an administrative assistant with Western International, a role he credits with preparing him for joining a professional environment after graduation.  

After more than three years in sales at an IT advisory firm, Li is currently pursuing a master’s degree in computer science at the University of Pennsylvania. He has become increasingly interested in technology and intends to find a position that combines his background in business and sales and his new technical skills. 

In addition to his studies, Li continues to give back. He is currently a peer mentor to a batch of new students, as part of a program offered at the University of Pennsylvania. 

“I always think back to the peer guide training days where every year staff would tell a story of starfish being saved by a person on a beach. The moral of the story is that everyone can make a difference, even if that difference affects one person,” he said. “It might not seem like much to you, but for the person you’re helping, it is a token of welcome, of being inclusive and of making them feel like they belong.”  

Learn more and apply for a peer guide