When she first came to Canada, Ariana Pourbabak had no friends or family in her new country – and she didn’t speak a word of English.
Fast-forward to a year or so later, and the Iranian-born student had not only learned the language, but was able to step into the role as a tutor for other students at Douglas College Learning Centre.
Now, the Douglas College grad is in her third year of Pharmacy at UBC, after transferring from the Associate of Science degree program in 2013.
“It was very difficult when I first came to Canada. In my first semester, I took biology and pre-calculus and it took me nine hours to understand three pages in the text book,” Pourbabak recalled, laughing. “Then I became a science tutor and I was teaching people how to employ better studying strategies for calculus, biology and chemistry.”
Prior to coming to Canada, Pourbabak had a Bachelor’s degree in Food Science from Iran, but was unable to bring the official documentation over to Canada. Not wanting to give up on her love for science, she decided to start from the beginning in Vancouver.
It wasn’t without obstacles. Pourbabak struggled her first year with articulating the words she wanted to use for her work and research.
“I knew what I wanted to say, but I couldn’t say it or write it properly,” she said. “I told my instructor that English was my second language and that my sentences were not always perfect.
“She was so supportive and that gave me hope and a big boost in my self-esteem. At Douglas, the instructors really do care.”
Through the support system she established while at Douglas – including the opportunity to work at the Learning Centre and as a community leader for Canadian Blood Services – Pourbabak was able accomplish her goals.
“It was a difficult situation. I had no money, so I had to work while I was studying and learning English,” Pourbabak said. “But it got better, and next year, I’m graduating from Pharmacy at UBC. But if I hadn’t started at Douglas, I wouldn’t be where I am today. “I always say, ‘if I can do it given the circumstances I had, anyone can.’”
Once she graduates from UBC, Pourbabak plans to honour her father – who died of cancer – by specializing in cancer and having a pharmacy dedicated to cancer medication and support.
“It’s always been my dream,” she said.