Congratulations, you’ve made a bold adult decision to move far away from home to start your university life. Five years ago I made the very same decision, and it has been quite the ride. There will be many ups and downs in the next few years for you, but first you’re going to have to get past the hurdle of adjusting to life in a new country. My advice for adjusting to life in Canada, or any new country for that matter, can be summed up as follows: call home, meet people, and explore.
First and foremost, homesickness. No matter how excited you are to be moving to a new country or gaining independence, there’s a good chance you’re going to get homesick. Thanks to technology, there are so many ways to stay in touch with friends and family all over the world. Skype, Google Hangouts, Facebook, Twitter, and email are all great options for calling and messaging those you care about. But some of you, like me, may have some less technologically-savvy family members, and this is where it can get expensive.
Calling internationally from Canada can be very costly. Depending on your country of origin and your phone provider, you may get a decent deal for calling halfway across the world. There are other options such as international calling cards, which are available at lots of stores including International News in the Student Life Centre (SLC), and Skype credit, which allows you to call a phone directly from Skype. It’s a good idea to shop around and do some calculations, because you’re now a student and you’re probably going to be on a tight budget.
There are tens of thousands of people on this campus with a wide variety of interests and beliefs, so chances are really good you will meet people you’ll get along great with. Orientation week and living in residence give you plenty of opportunities to make friends, but there are so many other ways too. Every term the Federation of Students (Feds) holds the Clubs, Services, and Societies Day in the SLC where you can explore all the different groups on campus.
Whether you’re into breakdancing, politics, singing, cheese, gaming, archery, anime, or whatever, there’s probably a club for that. There are also clubs for most religious, ethnic, and cultural groups out there. You can find a full list and contact information for these groups on the Feds website as well if you miss that event.
If you’re into sports and fitness, there are varsity and intramural sports teams on campus along with a wide variety of fitness classes held every term. Can’t find anything you’re interested in among these? You can always keep an eye out for the many events happening around campus every term, including trips to other cities, special lectures, plays, workshops, and tours, happening almost daily. There are also plenty of people in your classes you can get to know.
Once you’ve settled in, it’s time to start exploring the city around you. Yes, you could stay holed up on campus forever, but that’s no fun, and you’re probably going to regret it in the long run. Waterloo might not be the most impressive city in the world, but it has plenty to offer. There are lots of ways to get information on things to do around town: the international student office, your don if you’re in residence, or the various friends you’ve made along the way. This very newspaper should have a whole ton of advice on that matter too.
When you’re feeling adventurous, take a trip to another city entirely. Toronto, for example, is just a couple hours away and has lots to see and do. Go to the ROM, Ripley’s Aquarium, or one of the many, many, many restaurants and bars (if you’re old enough) that exist in that city. Drag a Canadian to a Jays game and have them explain to you why people love them so much because I certainly can’t.
Going to university is a very exciting time. Going to university in a completely new country is even more so and can be quite overwhelming. The most important thing you can do is take it slow and give yourself time to settle in, and then make the most out of the next three to five years.