When Aayush Dudeja arrived at the Whitehorse airport from India in January 2021, he stepped outside and then, without hesitation, went right back into the building.
"It was cold," he said, somewhere around -20 C, the coldest he'd ever experienced.
Dudeja had flown to Whitehorse to attend Yukon University in person.
He had enrolled in the university's business certificate program based on the advice of some friends, and had already completed a semester online from India during the pandemic.
"My whole schedule was like waking up all night and sleeping, like, in the morning and in the afternoon," he said. "So that was pretty tough."
By the end of the semester, he got his student visa and flew to Whitehorse.
Back in the airport building, he took out a few jackets from his luggage, put them on and hopped into a taxi to make his way into the city.
'One of the best decisions of my life'
Classes continued to be delivered online for the winter semester, from January to April 2021, because of COVID-19.
"I was a little bit shy and wasn't involved that much in the classes," Dedeja said.
But he had some friends from India at the university and he told them he wanted to meet more people.
One of his friends suggested he join the student union, so he did.
"That was one of the best decisions of my life," he said.
"I was getting involved with a lot of things like helping students, working through the emails, like in a professional way. So that helped me, including my professional skills, communication skills."
He started as the student union's vice-president of finance and then became president.
This past semester, he left the president's position because someone else wanted it, and became the vice-president, internal, while also joining the University's senate.
"It's been really great so far," he said.
On Saturday, Dudeja will receive his business certificate, joining 210 other students also be graduating from the university. It will be the first in-person graduation ceremony at the university since 2019.
Dudeja said he's excited to be graduating because he can start the process to get permanent residency in Canada.
He's already working two full-time jobs, he said.
"On the other hand, I'm missing the university life," he said.
"I was having a lot of time to enjoy and, like, go for hiking and a lot of things. I was going skiing like every weekend, but now it's like starting working, seven in the morning until the night," he said.
He's not sure what he's going to do next but is interested in getting a mechanical engineering degree.
And, he said, he has advice for others thinking about coming to study in the Yukon.
He said he's seen a lot of students, himself included, who were homesick at first when they got to the Yukon and wondered if they had made the right decision. Some left, some stayed.
"Give [it] one or two months to go outside and see the nature," he said, adding there's a lot of beautiful scenery in the Yukon and a lot of things to do.
"I mean, this is the best place I've ever been," he said.