You don’t get to by on reputation alone: Canada’s plethora of resources for international students is renowned for making the move to their new city seamless and enjoyable.
“We have a very comprehensive support system, which assists our international students in making a smooth transition to the new Canadian academic environment,” says Diana Ning, coordinator of International Services for Students at Ryerson University.
“Our international orientation program includes a series of seminars, training, city tour, and a very special welcome party for the students on behalf of the university, which was attended this year by Mayor David Miller,” she says.
Because most of the resources available to students come from their respective schools, many of the programs are tailored to meet the students’ specific needs.
Ning, a former international student herself, says her job is to anticipate the concerns of the school’s 1,300 international students and design programs to best assist them, particularly in light of tougher economic times.
“We have now a work/study program encouraging campus employers to give international students jobs, because they are not eligible for OSAP,” says Ning. “We also have training workshops covering practical topics from academic skills, career strategies, learning about the Canadian taxation system, health advice, learning how to cope with Canadian environment: What to wear, what to eat, insurance issues, safety issues; whatever little — or big — things that may come up.”
Most important, perhaps, is peer-to-peer interaction. Ning stresses that students learn best from their peers, and the school tries to match newcomers with senior students from their own cultures in order to make them feel more comfortable at the outset.
“When you come to a new country, your natural instinct would be to seek someone similar to you, who understands you and who will share their experience about how they went through these challenges,” she says. “So here you have a large network of support on a daily basis, covering academic needs and social transition needs as well.”
A broader list of resources offered by Canadian schools can often be found on their individual websites, or by calling their international departments directly.