Please write and tell us where you are in the world and how your careers are progressing, or just write about anything that is close to your heart.


Email your letters to nelia.engelbrecht@nwu.ac.za, fax them to 086 614 3222 or mail them to Nelia Engelbrecht, Institutional Office, North-West University, Private Bag X1290,

Potchefstroom, 2520.



Alumna Gloria Cilliers and husband Charl live in Toronto in Canada. Gloria completed her master’s degree in communication studies on the NWU’s campus in Potchefstroom in 2013. She also worked as communication practitioner at the NWU from 2009 to 2010.

Messages from afar

Dear fellow alumni,


My husband, Charl, and I decided to take on a new challenge in 2014: to create a new future for ourselves and move closer to family. My brother, Pierre van der Westhuizen (also an NWU alumnus), lives in Ohio, United States (US), and my sister-in-law, Millanie de Klerk, in Florida, US. Toronto in Canada was our first choice.


The process of achieving permanent resident status took about 18 months. In February 2015 we heard that our application had been successful, and we sold everything and placed our house on the market. Five months later, in July, with two suitcases and a one-way ticket each, we flew to our new adventure in Toronto!


Today I am the editor of a business magazine, Canadian Insurance Top Broker, here in Toronto. Charl, a software developer, still works for the South African insurance company BrightRock from his home office.


The office culture in Canada is something quite different.

Immigrants constitute almost half of Toronto's population, so one works with different people from various countries and cultures, and generally there is an atmosphere of understanding and acceptance of colleagues from diverse backgrounds. But sometimes one has to remind oneself that South African humour is unique! Canadians are very polite and politically correct – that stereotype is accurate.


We live in picturesque Oakville, Ontario – about 45 minutes from Toronto by train. I still feel like I am living in a movie every morning when I take the train into the city.


Believe it or not, the summers here are very hot (in the high 30s in terms of degrees), and very festive. The sun only sets after 9pm and children can still be seen playing in parks while couples walk hand in hand down the streets of Toronto's city centre on the way to a party or food festival.


Town streets are cordoned off for festivals and filled with festival-goers and food stalls and carnival games – just like in the movies. The townspeople watch old movies under the open sky or listen to bands playing under the stars in the local park.


So far, autumn has been our favourite season – red, orange, yellow and brown all around with pumpkin festivals celebrated with pumpkin pie and pumpkin-spiced lattes.


Winter is cold, yes, but depending on where in Canada you live, not quite as bad as South Africans might think. The snow in Toronto isn't that severe – just enough for skiing and ice-skating on a frozen lake.


The most difficult part of emigrating is leaving your people behind.

South Africa is a beautiful country, but it is the people who make it unique and make one long for home. Fortunately, there are quite a lot of South Africans in Oakville (and a South African shop that sells biltong and Ouma rusks), and we have formed a group of friends who regularly socialise around our South African traditions (and food!).


At the same time, we embrace our new homeland and everything she offers us – we feel truly blessed to be living in a breath-taking, safe, first-world country. It is a privilege and an adventure!


Kind regards,


Gloria Cilliers



The NWU & U


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“What has struck me is the Canadians' sense of community – it’s a society with a high regard for volunteer work. Volunteering is encouraged in every workplace, and matriculants cannot pass high school without a certain number of volunteer hours under the belt. This says a lot about a country.”


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