Anh Cao has an impressive academic record.
The Vietnam native came to Canada with a $116,000 government-funded scholarship to begin his studies. Now, a few years later, Cao has a 4.0 grade average, a silver medal from the Governor-General and the prestigious John Black Aird prize, and he’s graduating at the top of his class from the University of Toronto.
Given his success, you’d never guess Cao spent an entire semester living and studying in a homeless shelter.
It turns out Canada’s high tuition rates for international students cut through his scholarship funds like a hot knife through butter, and he soon found himself Googling “homeless shelter for students in Scarborough” at the start of his second semester. Even still, Cao stayed optimistic.
“It was great, really; I found Second Base Youth Shelter near the Kennedy subway station and lived there for first semester,” he told the Toronto Star. “It was free food and TTC tokens and a wake-up call every morning, and they found me a quiet place to study.”
When his next installment came from the scholarship, Cao was able to move back into residence. This year, he’s been living for free in a friend’s den. His dinners have been provided by the woman who cleans his school’s science lab, while lunch came from a mother of a master’s student who heard how much Cao liked her hummus, according to the newspaper.
But he also found ways to give back to the community that gave so much to him.
During his first two years of school, Cao volunteered at a hospice, where he visited people in palliative care in their homes to offer companionship, make them food and tidy up. He said he did this “to get to know Canada.”
“Yay Canada — here’s what I have learned about this country: If you need help, there will be help for you,” the 23-year-old told the Star after graduating at Convocation Hall.
Cao received an Honours Bachelor of Science, and says he will return to the University of Toronto this fall to obtain his master’s degree.
[H/T: The Toronto Star]