Zabdi Plaza -
Toronto, Canada

Zabdi Plaza Trades the Sunshine of Aruba for a Toronto Winter

UStudy places students throughout North America so if you’re interested in learning more about what it’s like to study in Canada, look no further! *Spoiler alert* – yes, winters are freezing there!

Originally from Aruba, Zabdi Plaza had always wanted to study abroad, specifically in Canada. While following an orientation program at the University of Aruba, Zabdi realized what she wanted to pursue a bachelor’s program in the funeral industry. Not quite sure how to move forward, she contacted UStudy to help her take those first steps in the direction of fulfilling her dream.

Zabdi enrolled at Humber College in Toronto, Ontario – about an hour and a half drive north of Niagara Falls – and is following the Funeral Director Class1 two-year bachelor’s degree program. The focus of the first year is theoretical and in year two students complete a full-time internship to gain more hands-on experience in the sector. The program prepares students for the practical and theoretical aspects of directing a funeral home, helping grieving families, and embalming. It also includes some business and anatomy courses.


The transition from Aruba to Canada has been challenging but rewarding. Being so far from the help and support of her tight-knit family has meant that Zabdi had to quickly become more independent.

Even living by yourself in your own country is not the same. You learn that you are the person you must depend on and that sometimes you just have to figure things on your own and that there are going to mistakes made but in the end it is worth it for your own personal growth.”

Her arrival in September meant Zabdi had to quickly prepare for winter, something she had not experienced before. Even friends she had in the Netherlands who were familiar with cold winters said a Canadian winter is not comparable. She has relied a lot on the internet to help her find out what she would need and where to find it.

The cultural aspects of studying abroad also took time to adapt to. Growing up in Aruba, Zabdi was used to speaking multiple languages and getting along with different people. However, as Zabdi says:


“The culture in Canada is very different. I was trying to fit in with certain groups such as the Hispanic group but that was hard since in Canada, I look very Hispanic, but I can’t speak Spanish very well. Then I tried to fit in with the Caribbean group, but in Canada, Jamaica is basically seen as the only Caribbean Island, which has a very different culture from my own. I have now moved on from trying to fit in and just want to be my authentic self. It can get lonely and feel like I’m sometimes forgetting my own culture since there is little exposure. But I try to make the best of it.”

In her first year, Zabdi’s would get up early to take the bus to the Humber campus, attend lectures, work with classmates in study hall and then back to her apartment. Now in her second year and working a FT internship, her schedule is completely different. She now has car and moved into an apartment of her own to be closer to work.

I meal prep for the week, sometimes I make lunch the night before. I wake up, skip breakfast usually I have a protein drink and I drive to work to start at 9 and finish around 5. some days I work till 8 it depends on the number of families we are serving. When I come home after I have dishes to wash, Laundry to do and a house to keep clean.”

Zabdi’s internship is demanding so she doesn’t have a lot of free time. It is important, especially when working with grieving families, for her to take care of her own mental health so getting enough rest is her top priority.

Zabdi says that studying at college in Canada is more hands on, which she really enjoyed. Canadian colleges focus on experiential learning and they do a great job of combining  theoretical studies with applied learning. She also enjoyed that Humber College had a space where everyone could get together to study. The subjects were focused on exactly what she wanted to study and that made it very fun.

Despite the initial challenges, Zabdi would definitely recommend a study abroad. Before she arrived in Canada, she considered herself quite introverted. But now:

I am doing things I would’ve never thought I would be doing. I still struggle sometimes but studying abroad taught me that you just must put that aside and go for it, even when you’re scared. Because if you don’t do it, it won’t get done.”

Zabdi would recommend Canada to anyone who is thinking about studying abroad. It’s been challenging, it’s been enriching, and she’s grown as a person. She realizes that she would never have had some of these life-changing experiences if she would have remained in Aruba to study. The Funeral Director program has helped her learn a great deal about how to help people from a wide variety of cultural backgrounds during their moments of grief, skills that will help her throughout her career. Zabdi now hopes to transfer to a business school in the US to complete her education so that when she returns to Aruba, she will be ready to set up her own funeral home.

Zabdi is grateful for UStudy’s help because the process of finding and applying to a suitable program, and then arranging a study permit can be daunting. Working with UStudy enabled her to worry less about the process and to focus on more on pinning down what she really wanted to get from her time abroad.

This could be your story! Interested in exploring  your study options in Canada?

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