Written by Olivia DesRoches

International students are thriving in New Brunswick, and Waleed Khokhar is one example of a hard-working newcomer who came here for academics and stayed for the opportunities New Brunswick has to offer.

Before arriving in Canada, Khokhar was a student at the Canadian University Dubai. When presented with the opportunity to travel and take an exchange course, he began looking at institutions in Canada. At the time, the only universities accepting admissions were Brock University and the University of New Brunswick (UNB). Khokhar knew he wanted to go somewhere smaller and different from what he was used to, so he chose UNB.

Falling for New Brunswick

After taking two courses, he realized he loved the province and knew he wanted to finish his education here. He ultimately transferred to UNB’s neighbour St. Thomas University (STU) where he graduated two years later with a Bachelor of Arts majoring in Communications and Public Policy.

After graduation, Khokhar knew he wanted to remain in New Brunswick for work. The city was beautiful, the Fredericton community was friendly, and people were quick to stop and say hello. “I’ve always wanted to experience something like that,” he says.

As he searched for new opportunities and challenges, he began work as a financial advisor with CIBC and RBC before transitioning to full-time work as a realtor with Keller Williams.

Throughout each opportunity, Khokhar was focused on identifying needs and gaps in the Fredericton community, and meeting them as best he could. Via this process, he recognized a need for fresh new fast-food options in the city. When an opportunity to open a restaurant that met those needs presented itself, Khokhar was quick to take advantage of it.

Barburrito opened its first location in Ontario in 2010, owned and operated by an immigrant from Moldova. As the restaurant began expanding across Canada, Khokhar has the options to all restaurant locations in New Brunswick and opened the first Barburrito in Fredericton.

Paying it Forward

Barburrito serves authentic Mexican dishes, with all ingredients and protein options made fresh, in-house. While supporting the Fredericton community with this fresh fast-food option, Khokhar is also proud to employ international students as they complete their studies.

“At Barburrito, we have all international students working, people from Syria, Columbia, India, Pakistan, Spain, Romania, Ghana, Belize, Iran, and the Philippines. They have so many experiences and skills, coming as immigrants. They’re incredible assets to the community.”

Khokhar recognizes this isn’t always an opportunity provided to newcomers. “International students can be ignored in many spaces. I put myself in their shoes, I know this person needs a chance. In the end, anyone can be trained to do anything.”

Looking ahead, Khokhar is anticipating the opening of Barburrito Moncton, and other locations across New Brunswick. His goal is to serve the community in multiple ways, take on new challenges, and see how far things go.

“It’s not about making money but bringing options that will feel good and get people talking. Let’s see where that will take us.”

Organizations looking to hire international students in New Brunswick should visit welcomenb.ca.

Be sure to check out our other interviews with videographer Anas Nannis and ONB’s own Serge Zably for their perspectives on international talent in New Brunswick.