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How Canadian Post-Secondary Institutions Support International Students On and Off Campus

Thursday | August 2, 2018 | by Katherine Polack

international student support

Being a new student on campus can be challenging. As an international student, finding your way around campus and trying to acclimate to new customs and norms can be especially difficult. The good news is that your college or university likely has an international student office or international department dedicated to supporting international students through various services and orientation programs.

As the International Student Activities Coordinator in the International Department at Durham College in Ontario, Canada, I organize a wide range of activities and celebrations on and off campus for international students. At Durham, we realize that students may become homesick after being away from home for some time; therefore, we ensure students have plenty of opportunities to become involved and immersed in Canadian culture while still embracing and celebrating their diverse roots.

The activities organized throughout the year by the International Department fall into one of three categories:

Canadian Experiences

We want to ensure that students participate and learn about Canadian traditions and experiences. So, we invite students to join us on trips to Niagara Falls, the Canadian Canoe Museum, a maple syrup farm, a guided tour in downtown Toronto, and a trip to the Christmas Market in the Distillery District.

In-Office Cultural and Religious Celebrations

We believe it is important to show students that we support and embrace their cultural and religious diversity. Throughout the year, we hold a variety of culturally diverse celebrations in the office, including Day of the Dead, Diwali, Lunar New Year, Eid, Halloween, Holi, and Easter.

Educational and Supportive Workshops

We also emphasize academics, providing students with academic and emotional support throughout the year in the form of educational and supportive workshops. This year we are implementing a mental health workshop, a simple recipe cooking workshop in which students will learn how to cook a pre-determined meal with a handful of ingredients, and a career development workshop.

We believe that these three categories are a great way for both students and schools to learn from one another in order to create a rewarding and supportive academic environment.

Even though the role of International Student Activities Coordinator goes by many names across all colleges and universities in Canada, the purpose of this role and of the international student office in general remains the same: to create and cultivate a welcoming environment for students to partake and become involved in what a Canadian school and culture has to offer while still celebrating the students’ diverse roots. After all, what would an international office be without diversity?

Be sure to look for the international student services office/activities coordinator at your university and take part in the events and activities they schedule to ease your transition to your new school.

Related Reading

How to Get Involved in Social Activities on Campus

How to Build Your Social Network On and Off Campus

Katherine Polack is the International Student Activities & Retention Coordinator at Durham College in Ontario, Canada.