Kamaal Singh Mroke's journey to Suncrest College totals around 11,000 kilometres in true distance.
Originally from a small village in the province of Punjab in India, Kamaal decided to make the move to Saskatchewan, aided by his family. His schooling in Canada began in Toronto before the move to Parkland College in 2015. Moving to Yorkton led Kamaal back to his sister and brother-in-law, who were both living in the community.
"When you leave everything behind, your parents, your home, your friends, all of your life, you just leave it back and you're in a new country — it's a new world. New language, new people, everything's new, you don't know anything, and it's nice to have that support system — I am lucky," he told Suncrest College.
"(Suncrest College) is a small community, it's a very close-knit relationship between the teachers, the professors, the instructors, and the students. You get to know them face to face, you have that professional, but also personal relationship with the teacher, which is something you can't really get if you're studying at a larger campus ... it was also easier to get a job in a smaller community, that's why I chose Suncrest."
Kamaal spent one year at Parkland College, obtaining his Continuing Care Assistant certificate, and finding employment two months before his graduation. After working in Canora during the next two years, Kamaal decided to make his way back to the newly rebranded Suncrest College, this time to obtain a full nursing degree through the University of Saskatchewan. This time around, as well, Kamaal wouldn't be considered an International Student. Instead, his return to Suncrest was as a permanent resident, something he obtained in 2018.
Kamaal is currently in his fourth year in the program and only has a few months left until receiving his degree.
All of this, all done nearly 11,000 kilometres away from family and friends, and all of those signs of familiarity of Mroke's home country.
Kamaal didn't hold back when explaining how that distance felt for him as he continued his studies through the years that included a global pandemic.
His struggles didn't stop at the temperature change that equates to (at times) a nearly 90-degree Celsius drop.
Kamaal was battling something behind closed doors, and it all began in his second year: COVID-19.
He hadn't seen his father or girlfriend in four years, and couldn't go home due to work, but he bought tickets in March 2020.
That, incidentally, was the beginning of the pandemic.
He ended up dropping out of the program prior to year three instead deciding to take a gap year to reconnect.
"I went back and I spent some time with my dad, I stayed there for about eight months, I got married and then I came back and I started again with my third year. Staying away from that family, that's the hard part ... that was really hard, and then just recently this year ... that's when my dad passed away," Kamaal said.
He admitted that continuing his studies hasn't been easy, with loss and homesickness at the forefront.
"My mom already had passed away seven years ago with breast cancer, and then my dad ... but I couldn't go back home because I was still going through my practicals. That part was really hard. But I worked hard for this program, and I'm persevering," Kamaal said.
That push to persevere has allowed Kamaal to take that next step in his professional career. He hopes to obtain employment at the hospital in Yorkton and said he has been in touch with the management at the facility.
As Kamaal makes that next step too, he's soon going to have more loved ones there by his side.
His wife, a doctor in India who runs her own clinic, plans to move to Saskatchewan to be with him in the near future — something Kamaal can't wait for.
"(The distance) is almost impossible to deal with ... it takes a toll on your mental health, on your physical health, it affects everything," Kamaal said.
"I struggled in those days."
Those long days and struggles, it's all about to come full circle for the Kamaal family.
11 months ago, he and his wife welcomed their first child. Those struggles and that will to persevere is setting the foundation for quite the tale when Kamaal's son grows up.
Once the couple is able to make the move to Canada, Kamaal said the plan is to begin their lives in their new home, right here, in Saskatchewan.
For a full list of programs at Suncrest College, click here. The College’s international program options are in business, health care, and technical trades. Small class sizes and friendly staff will help you learn and succeed. All our students are treated as equals, and you will have access to individual student attention and support, experienced instructors, and a safe and supportive environment. For more information on the International campus community at Suncrest College, click here.