This Christmas, UW’s international students will again be allowed to spend their holidays on campus.
For years, UW policy mandated international students living in UW residences to either go home for the holidays, arrange to stay with friends, or rent short-term accommodations from landlords in Waterloo region.
Last year, following the lead of other Ontario universities, UW allowed international students to stay in residence over the Christmas holidays. Kyra Chisholm was involved in the planning of last year’s December International Student Stay Program.
“The university, and by extension, Waterloo esidences, has experienced consistent growth in our international student population in recent years and is always looking for ways to ensure that students who come to our campus from another country have a positive experience, academic and beyond,” she said. “The decision was driven by feedback from international students and those that support them, which highlighted that providing winter break accommodations on-campus would greatly improve the experience of students who are already far away from home.”
International students were placed in four-bedroom suite-style units at UW Place with a Don on each floor, where they had access to full kitchens, dishes, and cooking utensils to cook their own meals.
Students were responsible for shopping for their own food.
“[It was] akin to the suite style residence experience,” Chisholm said.
She added that UW Place is in close proximity to both Uptown Waterloo and the University Plaza.
Over the winter holidays, international students had an opportunity to participate in a wide range of activities from ice skating to making ginger bread houses to movie nights.
There were events planned for the students over the break.
“[There were] DIY decorations and an opportunity to walk through the Waterloo Park lights display… paint nights, wellness activities, tobogganing, and games nights. There was programming planned every day over the break,” Chrisholm said.
She said all events and activities last year were planned by the Residence Life Dons, in collaboration with International Student Experience Leaders from the Student Support Office, and stressed that the residence life staff included all students by having both. According to Chisholm, last year’s December International Student Stay Program was coordinated by a cross-functional team that included representatives from Waterloo Residences Facilities, Residence Life, and Occupancy & Marketing Services teams.
Chisholm said that information from other Ontario universities was shared with UW staff in order to assist them in the planning and development of last year’s December International Student Stay Program, noting that the UW program is very similar to the one available at Trent University.
Chisholm said 41 international students chose to participate last year. UW Housing anticipates that even more students will register to take part this year.
All eligible students living in Waterloo Residences will have received a formal email invitation from Waterloo Residences staff and eligible students living in any of the University Colleges are asked to reach out directly to their University College to receive sign up information for the program.
Chisholm said participants of the 2018 December International Student Stay Program had a chance to complete an anonymous feedback survey by UW Housing after the break and give staff their recommendations on how the program could be improved.