Valedictorian delivers inspiring speech about arriving in Canada

June 12, 2012 - 9:30am

Sometimes what you think is the biggest mistake of your life turns out to be the best thing in your life.

That’s the message Vancouver Island University Bachelor of Hospitality Management graduate Hamza Slaoui delivered during an inspiring valedictorian speech at VIU’s recent spring convocation ceremony.

Slauoi, who arrived in Nanaimo five years ago from Casablanca, Morocco, shared his personal story of how it felt arriving in Canada for the first time.

“Five years ago, I was fresh out of a Moroccan high school not knowing where and what to do with my life,” he said. “I thought of studying Hospitality Management because I love traveling and I love hotels.”

He googled ‘Hospitality Management Canada’ and found Vancouver Island University, then called Malaspina University-College. A month later, Slaoui ended up in Nanaimo Street in Vancouver, desperately looking for a university.

“Five hours later, I got so nervous, exhausted and worried that I just took a taxi which took me to a ferry, which then took me to an island,” he said.

“Being from Casablanca, the biggest city of my country, I thought this was the end of my life and the biggest mistake of my life and that survival in such a small city (Nanaimo) was impossible.”

Slaoui couldn’t go back home, worried his father would be upset “for wasting his lifetime savings.” So he gave VIU a try and didn’t give up.

“Right away I fell in love with the people, the culture, education, and nature in Nanaimo,” he said. “What was going to be my life’s biggest mistake turned out to be my life's best choice.

“Nanaimo is now my home away from home. I will never regret coming here because simply put, it helped me be my best. This great opportunity gave me the chance understand this world much better; and of course appreciate this warm, beautiful and welcoming country.”

Slaoui cherishes the close friendships he made with other students from all over the world including Canada, the US, Korea, Russia, El Salvador and Nepal to name a few.

“In Canada, no matter where you come from all that matters is who you are, can be and want to be. The fact that I am a foreigner and everyone respected me for who I am is proof of great maturity, openness and a very beautiful country.”

Highlights of Slaoui’s studies at VIU include small classroom environment, great relationships with teachers and students, and respect of every individual no matter his/her background, religion, ethnicity or sexual orientation.

Another highlight was completing three co-operative education placements (one each summer) as part of the Hospitality Management program. “This helped me develop some great connections which led to a job immediately after graduation,” he said.

Slaoui started working with the Marriott Hotel chain in Vancouver on May 17 and aspires to become a revenue manager.

[Hear Hamza Slaoui’s complete valedictorian speech]()

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