VIU grad and current employee Rayan Zeineddine wearing a VIU hoodie and glasses standing next to a tree outside and smiling at the camera

Finding community and belonging at VIU

February 9, 2024
Author: Eric Zimmer

VIU grad and current employee Rayan Zeineddine shares his story

Safe, supported and valued are three words Rayan Zeineddine uses to describe how he feels in his current job as Housing Admissions Coordinator with VIU Residences.

Rayan grew up in Lebanon. After high school, he pursued a degree in medical laboratory technology. He was good at chemistry and biology, so his first thought was to go into medicine.

After finishing his bachelor’s degree in 2015, Rayan decided to leave his home country for a job as an elementary school science teacher in the city of Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, where he worked from 2016 to 2021.

During this time, he began to look abroad at what different universities offered for graduate studies. In 2018, he applied to the Master of Education program. He started during the COVID-19 pandemic, which meant he started online from Saudi Arabia, where he could continue to work due to the time difference.

“Due to the 10-hour difference in time zones, my studies and teaching duties did not overlap so it became possible to be a student and work,” he recalls.

Rayan used this time to connect further with the VIU community even though he was still physically far away.

“I devoted my time to becoming a leader in training, drawing my inspiration from a book that was part of a course I took during my Masters,” he says. The book, entitled Learning Leadership: The Five Fundamentals of Becoming an Exemplary Leader, “helped me build a solid foundation in leadership.”

Rayan served virtually as a peer mentor for VIU’s Thrive program and was one of two graduate student representatives on the Graduate Student Advisory Committee.

For his master’s thesis, he was involved in team-based research through the Community-Based Applied Interdisciplinary Research (CBAIR) course, which brings students from different disciplines together to research solutions to problems facing a community partner.

In November 2021, halfway through his program’s second and final year, Rayan arrived in Canada and says he felt a sense of “joy and calm” as soon as his plane touched down in Toronto for his connecting flight to BC.

“I had a few hours to wait for my next flight and I noticed a rainbow mural near the spot where I was waiting,” he recalls.

For Rayan, this symbolized "the rights and freedoms gay people have in Canada and it reminded me I was in a safe place. I felt my self-esteem improve and I felt that I could now direct my energy towards living my life to the fullest.”

As a VIU student, Rayan says a variety of community supports reassured him that he belonged here.

“The newsletters I received as a student contained valuable opportunities to volunteer, attend conferences and get involved in events,” he says. “I stepped forward into many of these opportunities and learned something new each time.”

VIU’s Positive Space Alliance was another source of community for Rayan.

“I felt comfortable and welcome to participate in community events,” he says. “My favourites were the annual Pride flag raising on campus, holiday social gathering and the PSA representing VIU in Nanaimo’s Pride Parade.”

Rayan graduated in April 2022 and applied for a job with VIU Residences a month later.

As the months went on, he took on a variety of roles: “I was tasked with training new hires for the front desk,” he says. “I put together manuals and videos that capture best practices and processes. I backfilled the office assistant position for a few months, then transitioned to my current role of housing admissions coordinator.” In his current role, Rayan oversees on-campus housing admissions and room assignments for more than 530 bed spaces.

And last October, Rayan received some life-changing news: “I became a permanent resident of Canada.”

In his day-to-day interactions with students, parents and fellow staff, Rayan finds joy and flow in being a leader who listens with empathy and shares his knowledge to serve the community. 

“I continue to practice gratitude for the precious land I’m on, recognizing the traditional territory of the Indigenous peoples who have been on this land since long before my arrival,” he says.

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