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This article was published 23/3/2014 (2733 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
Ehtisham Rauf thought he was ready for winter when he arrived in Winnipeg on Christmas Day, 2013.
Moving to Winnipeg to attend the International College of Manitoba (ICM) from Abu Dhabi, the capital of the United Arab Emirates, Rauf had never really felt cold.
'I went skating at The Forks... it was a lot more fun after I was done and just thinking about it'
"It was the first experience I had (with bitter cold). I walked out of the airport, I couldn't breathe. It was just so cold," Rauf, 18, said, with a laugh. "I came from the Middle East and it was in the 30s and 40s there and some days it was 50 C, so coming here, at -50 (with wind chill), it was a change of 100 degrees. I was preparing myself mentally for about two months but I don't know if you can prepare for that."
Rauf is a student at ICM, located on the University of Manitoba campus. He is one of 896 students from 72 countries who complete their first year of university studies at ICM to become eligible for admission into second-year studies in U of M programs such as arts, business, engineering and science.
"This term 'tuque' was introduced to me by my professor in my class. It was funny to me because only Canadians have this term," he said, noting his aunt from New York bought him one, but he thought it was a "knit cap."
Kabir Singh Kang, 19, had a bit more time to acclimatize as he arrived in September from Punjab in northern India. He arrived with some warm clothing, as he had seen snow before, but still needed to shop.
"In November, I had to buy a warmer coat. I had a tuque, but I had to buy warmer gloves," said Kang, who hopes to work in actuarial science. "I wasn't surprised (at the cold) because people told me the temperature would go down to -40 C, but then it went down to -55, so that was a shock."
As the winter got colder, Kang said he was impressed with how Manitobans carried on, unfazed by the weather and how many things there are to do outside in Winnipeg in the winter.
"I saw my first frozen river -- the Red River -- and I went skating at The Forks. I wasn't very good at it, but I tried it. It was a lot more fun after I was done and just thinking about it," Kang said, laughing. "To be honest, I've enjoyed the winter."
He said the ICM students have spoken often about what drew them to Winnipeg -- the welcoming atmosphere in the city and the quality of education in the country.
"In Canada, the education system is one of the best in the world, so everyone recommended to me that if I wanted to study abroad, I should definitely come to Canada," Kang said.
Rauf, whose goal is to become an astrophysicist, said the idea of staying warm became part of a volunteer program he assisted in carrying out around the U of M campus last month.
"It was part of (ICM's) random acts of kindness week where we took some scarves and tied them around campus with a note saying 'I'm not lost, I'm just here to warm you up,' " Rauf said.