Meet Olya Leshcheva



First impressions can change

Olya first came to Edmonton in 2011 to pursue a Master’s degree at the University of Alberta. While studying at the University of Montana, Olya met another student from Edmonton. Learning about our city from her new friend, combined with Olya’s sense of adventure and her love of school and traveling, convinced her it was the right next move.

Edmonton didn’t make a great first impression, but her experiences with the people and places in our city has now shifted her views.

“My initial impression really has changed over the years; I think this has been through the community because I have formed really great, strong connections and I have great friends. And I also think that the moment you start exploring the city… all the things that you're able to experience if you venture out.”

After moving to other cities in North America, that sense of community brought Olya back to Edmonton.

“Generally I think it's an underrated city because a lot of the things are not on the surface and you kind of have to look for them… but then you get friends and community and get to know and to explore.



Helping students feel at home 

As the Team Lead, International Student Engagement and Settlement at NorQuest College, Olya and her team help international students feel welcome at the college and settle into life in Edmonton. NorQuest now hosts 2500 international students each year.

“I think this role is really close to my heart because I came as an international student. And I want to make sure that the new students have the supports they need to make Edmonton feel like home… it takes time and community and connections.” 

In addition to teaching English to newcomers part-time, Olya has recently taken on a temporary role as an instructor in the Faculty of Business. 


Locations in video: Art Gallery of Alberta, NorQuest College

Coffee and community

Olya recognizes the changes for the better in Edmonton, with a lot of new shops and interesting spaces.  

“I'm obsessed with coffee. I love that there are independent coffee shops…I think they really do build communities” 

A few of Olya’s faves are: Coffee Bureau, Stopgap Coffee, Ace Coffee Roasters, Iconoclast Coffee Roasters

She also loves exploring the river valley and attending the many pet-friendly events with her dog, Bonnie. 


A golden lab mix dog walks toward the camera on a snowy path in a winter forest.
Bonnie enjoys the Mackenzie Ravine year round. Photo courtesy of Olya.


“I think that we are very lucky here because you don't even need to escape the city to feel that you're in nature and I think it's a gift, especially for a big city.”

If Olya could share a piece of advice with anyone considering a move to Edmonton:

“One thing I'm certain about is that if you want to make your community, to find friends, to kind of make a fresh start, I think in many regards, it's easier in Edmonton because it has a very different vibe of being open and accepting.”


“It's a big city too, meaning there are more professional opportunities. And of course, it is a lot more affordable.”



Olya’s three words to describe Edmonton are humble, underrated and changing. 



Our Why Edmonton series profiles the amazing people who call and make Edmonton home. Meet:

  • Hero Laird, a law student and research assistant who accidentally fell in love with Edmonton. 
  • Andrew Parker, basketball coach, educator and community builder who wants people to choose Edmonton and experience the care we have for one another. 
  • Danny Ross, an active participant in the arts and culture scene, who wants to share Edmonton’s unique point of view with the world. 
  • Lana Whiskeyjack, artist, assistant professor and writer inspired by the inclusive shifts in our city that gives her hope for future generations. 
  • Erick Estrada appreciates Edmonton’s small town vibes packed into a big city with opportunities.
  • Gurleen Kuar Bhandohal, a student and nature lover, who sees big things for our city’s evolution. 
  • Justin Der, an entrepreneur who knows that Edmontonians welcome and support local businesses.
  • Mayor Amarjeet Sohi who first came to Canada at 18, and through the support of a city, is now the mayor.