Category: News

Imagine Yourself at 40

Last year in honour of CIC’s 40th anniversary milestone, the Columbia International Scholarship Endowment Fund created its first ever Anniversary Essay Scholarship. Students were asked to reflect on their recent school experiences and submit a written essay in response to the following question: CIC is now 40 years old. Imagine yourself at 40. How will your experiences at CIC contribute to your personal and professional development, and help you overcome obstacles and reach your goals?. We are pleased to present the scholarship to the following students who inspired and impressed us with their submissions:

Laura Arias Fernandez (2nd place winner), Mr. Chan (CIC Executive Director), and Melike Celik (1st place winner)

1st Place: Melike Celik ($10,000 prize – Melike chose the David Suzuki Foundation as her charity of choice to receive 50% of her prize money)
2nd Place: Laura Arias Fernandez ($2000 prize)
3rd Place: Ayshin Mehrabi ($1000 prize)

You can read Melike’s award-winning essay here:

8,832 km by: Melike Celik

For an eighteen-year-old about to graduate from high school, imagining your life at 40 seems to be something out of a horror movie.  It is simply scary to imagine how many possible routes your life can take.  Little do we know, that what we have been doing up until now is a preparation for when we are 40; graduating high school is just another step of the process.  Choosing to go to a boarding school, was one of the most challenging decisions I had to make.  By deciding to go to Columbia at 15, I made an investment for my future self, I knew that there would be a lot of drawback of studying away from family, but the benefits outweighed it all.  The two and a half years I have been a student in Columbia taught me to be concerned with the needs and wishes of others besides my own, accustomed me into an international environment while making me open-minded, and honed my self-restraint and discipline.

Up until I started studying in Columbia, I had never seen community service and education be so unified.  Leadership activities are what pushed me out of my comfort zone, introduced me to new friend groups, and broke me out of the same old routine that you tend to get trapped into in a boarding school.  My view shifted from being focused on myself to people around me, I began to realize how much happier and fulfilled it makes me to be a part of someone else’s happiness.  I started out with a year in the Student Council and then became a Residence Life Prefect, which was unusual since I was always reserved and shy person.  Both of these roles strengthened my ability to work in a team and made me more confident in putting out my ideas forward during the weekly meetings.  What completely shifted my perspective, however, was the ME to WE Ecuador Trip I attended with the Social Justice Team this December.  We are constantly exposed to the global issues – whether it is through news or the class you are in, we become desensitized.  In some ways, we are in the loop and out of it at the same time.  This trip changed my position from being an observer to someone who takes the matters of change into their own hands.  After all these years being surrounded and aware of these issues, I was able to contribute in a way besides talking about it.  For about 12 days, we helped build the foundation for a water filtering system in a town called Kanambu.  After this trip, I came to the realization that I wanted to be able to contribute to the people around me with the career I pursue and continue offering my help in the local, and if possible, international community.  My experience in Columbia prepared me for a professional setting that I will come across by the time I am forty, I became comfortable with working in teams and grew into being more empathetic and understanding.  When it comes to my personal development, my involvement in leadership teams rotated my outlook from being based solely based on myself to the people around me.

I am no stranger to being in foreign environments and adapting to new cultures; I have moved countries every two years since elementary school.  However, I can definitely say that I have never been a part of a school as diverse as Columbia International College.  Besides the fact that the school is based in Canada, a country that prides itself on its multicultural population, in Columbia I was surrounded by people from over seventy different countries.  Over the course of my studies, I had roommates from Mexico, Russia, Kazakhstan, China and Taiwan.  There was a constant exchange from knowledge, traditions and customs – I celebrated Lunar New Year with one of my roommates, and tried Mexican candy with another, while would share with them a part of my own culture.  The school environment being an immersion of a variety of backgrounds made me open to understanding points of views distant from mine.  Being a part of Columbia was like a privilege of getting to escape the boundaries set by what I know and into a world of what I have yet to learn.  In the 21st century, something is rarely limited or geared to a certain group of people, we are more interconnected than we have ever been at any point in history.  From this point and on societies will only get more integrated, which means that by the time I am 40, being conscious and appreciative of people’s way of life will keep me away from prejudice and misinformation and make me a suitable candidate to work in an international setting.

Going to a boarding school, was a thought that never crossed my mind – until it did.  Before I knew, I was in Canada at the age of 15, committing myself to Columbia for the rest of my high school life.  At the peak of your adolescence, it is very easy to get lost in acting upon what you would like to do instead of what you have to do, especially if you are in a boarding school with no parents to supervise you.  It took several failures for me to find the balance between my studies and the time I set out for myself.  When I did find it, I recognized that I gained a skill that is crucial for university and professional life beyond that.  My experience as a student in Columbia molded me to be independent and responsible.  At times, it can be hard to sacrifice something you enjoy, to do something you need, but in long-term, self-control matures you.  When I am 40, nobody will be there beside me checking if I am doing satisfactory work, I will have to be my own judge.  Thankfully, the fragment of my life that took place at Columbia International College, has set-up the foundation for a good work-ethic and self-discipline.

Whenever I return home for the holidays, my parents ask me if I regret making the choice of attending a boarding school.  My answer has always been a “no” and will remain the same in the future.  At times it was tough to be 8,832 kilometers away from home, but I created a second home for myself right here, in a town called Hamilton and in a school called Columbia International College.  I can never predict what life will be like for me at 40, but what I know for sure is that my experience as a student in Columbia will set me apart and prove itself to be beneficial.  I can confidently say that the two and a half years I have spent at Columbia International College, made me selfless and compassionate towards the people around me, attained me the ability of will power and control, and made me accepting of a variety of cultures.  My investment for my future self paid off.

Congrats to Melike, Laura and Ayshin! We wish them all the best in their future endeavours.

Congrats to the May Scholarship Winners

It was an exciting day on May 16th as the Columbia International Scholarship Endowment Fund gave out the first of its 2019 scholarships to students graduating from Columbia International College. Families from all around the world gathered together at the FirstOntario Concert Hall in Hamilton to recognize the hard work and achievements of all the students. Our foundation Chair Cam Davis was in attendance to address the guests.

Cam Davis, CISEF Board Chair (L), Carl Kirkpatrick, Ningbo Huamao Education Group (R)

Hoang Thien Thanh receives the General Manager’s Character & Business Scholarship

Families travel from around the world to attend the May 16th graduation ceremony

CIC students celebrate their successes and achievements






Congratulations to the following students for receiving a scholarship:

  • Principal’s Scholarship – Tang Tao
  • Clement Chan Founders’ Merit Scholarship – Phan, Kieu Thuy Linh
  • General Managers’ Character & Business Scholarship – Hoang Thien Thanh
  • Partner School Scholarship – Wen, Yu-Chun (CSI Taiwan); Zheng, Anqi (Shanghai Liaoyun); Miranda Alcocer, Ania Berenice (TEC); Luo, Anting (Shenzhen Foreign Language School); Wang, Yutong (Ningbo Huamao)
  • Liaoyuan Academic Excellence Scholarship – Tang, Tao; Zheng, Anqi; Zhou, Ziqi; Li, Xiaoyu; Gao, Wei
  • Jim Campbell Business Scholarship – Phan, Kieu Thuy Linh
  • Social Students Excellence Scholarship – Tseng Yi-Shu
  • English Excellence Scholarship – Zhang Jiajie
  • Scarfone Hawkins LLP English Proficiency Scholarship – Liu Jinze
  • Math and Sciences Excellence Scholarship – Li Boyang
  • Fine Arts Excellence Scholarship – Bui Duc Nguyen
  • Engineering Excellence Scholarship – Wu Yufei
  • Excellence of Character Scholarship – Christiana Osei
  • Mosaic Scholarship – Xie Cong
  • Kevin Matthews Perseverance Scholarship – Tseng Yi-Shu
  • Integrity in Leadership Scholarship – Laura Arias Fernandez
  • Model UN Top Delegate Scholarship – Tseng Yi-Shu
  • EPP Scholarship – Xie Cong
  • School Commitment Scholarship – Sepehr Makarian
  • External Community Service Scholarship – Xuan Baoli
  • Young ASEP Achievers Continuing Scholarships of Excellence in Character – Enam Nana Hermon
  • Athletics Excellence Scholarship – Marian Alejandro Heredia
  • AwayCare Scholarship – Aisana Assanova
  • Compass Group Canada Residence Life Scholarship – Aisana Assanova (Linden Hall); Justice Owase (Pine Boys)
  • 40th Anniversary Essay Scholarship – Melike Celik (1st place); Laura Arias Fernandez (2nd place); Ayshin Mehrabi (3rd place)

We are so proud of these graduates and can’t wait to see where the next step of their journey takes them. All the best to this graduating class of scholarship recipients!

New partnership with McMaster University

We are proud to announce a new partnership with McMaster University that will recognize the community contributions of Columbia International College (CIC) students entering McMaster. Eight (8) new scholarships of $5,000 each will be awarded to CIC students who are graduating in 2018-19 and starting their undergraduate studies at McMaster in 2019-20. Scholarships will be jointly funded by the Columbia International Scholarship Endowment Fund and McMaster.

CIC and McMaster have had a longstanding partnership in education, philanthropy and community involvement. In addition to CIC students annually receiving acceptances to McMaster, they have been volunteering for McMaster’s Children’s Hospital for more than 7 years as well as raising close to $100,000 through CIC fundraisers and the hospital’s walk-a-thon. This new scholarship will recognize the incredible achievements of CIC students who are serving their communities and will set them up for success as they go on to new beginnings. Thank you McMaster!

For more information or to apply, download the McMaster Scholarship application form.

Looking back at 2018

As part of its initiative to recognize academic, social-emotional, and physical excellence, the Columbia International Scholarship Endowment Fund (CISEF) supports community organizations that help students reach their educational goals.  The organizations recognized and supported provide valuable life skills for students through volunteer opportunities. Organizations are recommended by the Columbia International College Student Development Department and approved by the CISEF Board of Directors.

We were honoured to work with the following organizations in 2018:

McMaster Children’s Hospital is a family-centered hospital that focuses on the health of children and youth. The funds received from the CISEF will support the highest priority needs of McMaster Children’s Hospital and support the purchase of leading-edge equipment and patient amenities, innovative research initiatives, redevelopment of patient care spaces, and the education and training of health care providers. CIC students provide volunteer hours to numerous McMaster events throughout the year – watch a video of the students helping at the hospital Christmas Market here.

“Your support is vital to McMaster Children’s Hospital Foundation. Our donors, community partners and volunteers help enhance health care for children and youth from across the region who rely on the teams at McMaster Children’s Hospital, including Ron Joyce Children’s Health Centre.” – Stephanie Hodgson, Development Coordinator, McMaster Children’s Hospital Foundation


Ontario Christian Gleaners provides areas in need with healthy food to help feed the community. These funds will go toward the purchase of protein sources to enhance the dried vegetable mix which are purchased directly from a farm in Saskatchewan.  The protein added to the vegetables helps create a complete meal for those living in refugee camps or school children, and nutritional programs in developing countries.

“We feel a special relationship with Columbia International School as the scope of our work is international.  Hosting the students for a work party at our building along with so many other volunteers (many who also were not born in Canada) is a meaningful opportunity for all who are involved together on the days the Columbia students come.  Thank you for your support through both hands on work as well as financial.  We look forward to many years of working together to make the world a better place for all of us.” – Shelley Stone, Manager, Ontario Christian Gleaners


Galcom International is an organization that provides radios, audio players, and radio and broadcasting equipment to remote areas of the world. CIC students volunteered their time to help build solar-powered radios that will be sent to South Sudan – watch a video of their experience here. The radios are used to receive information about upcoming storms and how to prepare their homes and their crops and important medical updates.



Mission Services supports the homeless in Hamilton by offering shelters and programs to support the community. The funds from the CISEF help to support the following programs: Men’s Emergency Shelter, Inasmuch House – Violence Against Women Shelter, Good Food Centre (Emergency Food Assistance), Suntrac Wellness Centre (Addiction Recovery), Willow’s Place (safe drop-in for women), The 196 Afterschool Program, and the Afterschool Meal Program.

“If Mission Services was a body, our donors would be our muscles. They give us the strength to accomplish the urgent work of relieving poverty in our community and giving compassionate care to our neighbours in need through financial gifts that make up where government funding falls significantly short, or is nonexistent. We are extremely grateful for the many Columbia students who volunteer with us on a regular basis! Thank you for your generous and compassionate support. Together we build a stronger Hamilton.”


Shalom Village is a long term care facility with services provided within the context of Jewish values. Funds received from the Columbia International Scholarship Endowment Fund are used to support a variety of health and wellness programs offered at Shalom Village.  These include fitness and fall prevention programs, transportation for seniors, and quality of life programs, such as art classes, dance classes and other social and recreation activities that would otherwise be out of reach for the residents and participants who rely on Shalom Village programs and services.

“Thanks to your support, our seniors live each day to the fullest. They are able to laugh, experience new things and meet wonderful new people that they wouldn’t otherwise meet. None of us is too old to enjoy the smile of a new friend, or the experience of trying something new. The students of Columbia College and the support of the Columbia International Scholarship Fund, is integral to our success and the happiness of our seniors.” – Laurie Pringle, Director of Communications & Engagement


Hamilton Victory Gardens transforms unused city lots into sustainable sources of food in a community where too many go hungry or do not have the proper nutritious food supply. As of 2017, Hamilton Victory Gardens has grown to a total of 15 garden sites and producing 1000’s of pounds of fresh produce harvested each year to be donated to 13 local food banks and food programs including Good Shepherd, Mission Services, Neighbour-to-Neighbour, and Living Rock. CIC students have proudly contributed over 4500 hours of community service this organization through planting, maintaining gardens and harvesting vegetables – watch a video of their experience here.