Every year, Canada welcomes hundreds of thousands of international students from around the world. While here, international students contribute to our multicultural climate, enrich our universities and help build stronger communities. But, studying away from home and in a new country comes with its challenges.
Here are a few things universities are doing to welcome international students and make their transition to life in Canada easier:
Getting the paperwork right
Immigration requirements for studying abroad can be complex. Universities offer online resources and support from immigration specialists to help guide students through this process. McMaster University, for example, offers immigration advising to incoming international students, as well as explanations on visas, study permits and other requirements.
A great first week
The first week in a new place can sometimes be the hardest. Universities have programs in place to help make the transition as smooth as possible. Saint Mary’s University, in Halifax, Nova Scotia, connects with their students the moment they land in Canada by offering free airport pickups. Informative welcome sessions are also organized for international students, along with other Welcome Week activities aimed at orienting students on campus and providing opportunities to meet others.
The buddy system
When adjusting to an unfamiliar place, it’s helpful to have someone who can answer a few questions or help guide you. Universities have implemented various mentorship and buddy programs for just this reason. At the Université du Québec à Montréal, international students can sign up for their buddy program, Âllo, where an experienced student acts as a resource to help new students get accustomed to the campus and the city of Montreal. Group events are also organized through the program to help students get a taste of Quebec culture and meet fellow international students at the university.
A global community
Having a supportive community can make all the difference when it comes to settling into a new environment. At the University of Victoria, students can become part of the UVic Global Community, which links together international, Indigenous and domestic students. The community offers social events, a mentorship program and even a holiday dinner program, so students away from home have somewhere welcoming to spend the holidays.
A common challenge for international students is studying in their second or third language. To help increase their fluency, universities offer opportunities to brush up on their French or English. The University of Ottawa, for example, offers intensive English and French language programs, as well as summer and custom language programs. At The University of British Columbia, students can participate in one-on-one writing coaching, special speaking and writing workshops or the Tandem Language Program for weekly conversational English practice.
Career skills for Canada
A right of passage for all students is learning the resume-building, interviewing and networking skills required to get a job in today’s market. For international students, Canada’s hiring practices and job search strategies may be different from back home. The University of Alberta offers I-Work!, a series of workshops and events to help international students gain an understanding of Canada’s work landscape and develop their job search skills.
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Universities Canada is the voice of Canada’s universities at home and abroad, advancing higher education, research and innovation for the benefit of all Canadians.
Assistant Director, Communications