GETTING SETTLED AT A CANADIAN UNIVERSITY
This article was written by Christina Kaye, a freelance writer who works in Vancouver, British Columbia.
So you’ve done all your preparation, and you’re sitting in your new home waiting for classes to start. What happens now?
Once you arrive at your new college or university, get in touch with the international students office or counsellor. They will have a wealth of information about the university, tuition payments, legal and immigration issues, and designated people who will help you if you have any problems while you are attending school. Most universities and colleges will have a “welcome week”, which might include workshops, tours, trips around the town and guidance on how to survive your first few weeks in Canada. You may feel overwhelmed - don’t be! This is a great way to make friends, and to meet people from all over the world who are in the same situation as you.
Frosh Week (the first week of school), also known as Welcome Week, will give you the opportunity to meet more people and join clubs and associations. If there is an international students’ association, join it! They often offer a number of opportunities for international students to settle in to life in Canada, such as conversation clubs, buddy programs and coffee socials.
The first week of classes may seem daunting, but stick to it! You may find that classes are taught quite differently in Canada in comparison to your home country. For example, it is normal for students to talk without first putting their hand up, and debate and discussion is encouraged. In some classes, participation is compulsory, so you can’t just hide at the back of the room taking notes. This may be quite unnerving if you are used to a more passive system, but after a while it will become more comfortable. Instructors, professors and teaching assistants will be happy to help you if you have any problems in or questions about their classes.
In the first couple of weeks, you may begin to feel homesick. This is normal, and most international students feel this at some time in their university career. There are various ways to combat this, such as:
- Become active in university events. If you start doing lots of new things, and meet new people, you will feel more relaxed and at home in your new surroundings. Join groups, attend events and if possible, join an international student ‘buddy’ program at your university.
- Call home. Talk to, email, or connect via social media to your family and friends back home. While initially this may make you more home-sick, keeping in touch with people from home will help you to feel more relaxed and grounded, and therefore more confident.
- Explore your new area. Walk, bike or bus around the new area you live in. The more you mix with the community, the more likely you are to fit in.
- Get a job. The laws in Canada allow international students to work on or off campus for a maximum amount of twenty hours a week while you are studying. Getting a job is a great way to meet new people and also make some extra money at the same time. Before starting a job, check with Immigration Canada for the permits you’ll need, and whether you need any further information before starting a job.
- Volunteer. Volunteering is a great way to feel part of your community and a good way to make friends while helping other people. There are a range of things that you can do, from helping at an animal shelter, to coaching a children’s soccer team.
So good luck, and remember, this experience will change how you live forever. The education system in Canada is well known throughout the world, and a Canadian education will set you in good standing wherever you travel to next. Follow these steps and use the experience wisely - and you will always have a little of Canada wherever you go in the world.