By Matt Gergyek

When Yasmine Atassi was preparing to apply to universities abroad, like most international students she was met with a plethora of options. Carleton was on Atassi’s list of applications and ranked near the top thanks to the positive feedback she’d heard about the vibrant student life and campus—but she remained undecided.

That all changed when Atassi, who was born and raised in Saudi Arabia, heard from a member of Carleton’s international admissions and recruitment team. Atassi remembers receiving an invitation to meet and learn more about Carleton and life in Ottawa.

Yasmine Atassi

Yasmine Atassi

“The fact that Carleton made that effort to actually have someone available in the Middle East to answer questions from prospective students says something about the university itself and how inclusive it is,” says Atassi.

A few months later, Atassi was on a plane to Ottawa to begin studying toward her Bachelor of Communication and Media Studies with a minor in Political Science at Carleton before moving on to the Master of Political Management (MPM) program.

Atassi quickly began to flourish at Carleton, passionate about studying disinformation and the politics of her home country Syria, where she has citizenship.

Atassi became involved in the Carleton University Commonwealth Student Association and Model Parliament, two initiatives that bring students to Parliament Hill and immerse them in the political process, influencing her decision to get into politics. Earlier this year, Atassi was a delegate at Equal Voice’s Daughters of the Vote program, which looks to encourage more women to work in politics and take action in their communities

During her busy life outside of the lecture hall, Atassi says she saw an opportunity to create a single organization to unify Arabic students across campus while reflecting the cultural differences and diversity of experiences. That led her to create the Arab Students League in 2018.

“Being so far from home, you can definitely start to miss your culture,” says Atassi. “When you have thousands of students from that region coming to campus, they need representation, they need that familiarity to rely on.”

The Arab Students League quickly became well known on campus, leading everything from environmental awareness campaigns and the selling of eco-friendly products on campus, to their networking initiatives, where they have interviewed notable Arabs in the community, such as Canada’s Minister of Transport Omar Alghabra.

Atassi says she appreciated the hands-on, hard skills approach the MPM is built on, where students learn everything from writing speeches and holding press conferences to working closely with politicians.

The connections and mentorship from the MPM played a role in helping Atassi secure the job she now holds with Canada’s Minister of Natural Resources, where she is the executive assistant to the chief of staff and a special assistant working on policy.

As Atassi’s career progresses, she wants to continue being a source of mentorship for newcomers to Canada and working on initiatives that combat the climate crisis: “It’s now or never.”

Her advice for international students coming to Carleton?

“Get out of your comfort zone—you already made the first step by getting on a plane and landing in Canada, but don’t let it stop there,” says Atassi.

“Keep pushing and you’ll find unexpected and life-changing opportunities coming your way.”

Earth crystal glass globe in human hand on grass background.

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