University is a new adventure in the lives of most students, but is especially novel for international students.
Students who come to Canada specifically to become a part of the UW community may face unique challenges and have special requirements to feel more comfortable in their new home.
Adjusting to a new culture is not instant — it is a process that may last many years.
No class can cover a culture completely, and situations will always arise where students will learn something new from a peer, a professor, or a stranger.
This culture change can sometimes be a fresh perspective, but sometimes come as a shock. Either way, here are some tips for learning to live in a new home.
Ask questions — people are generally willing to help and explain themselves when asked nicely.
Asking questions creates opportunities for learning new things, making new connections, and speeds up the process.
Be kind to your body — eat a good meal and sleep at night so your body adjusts itself to the new sleep schedule.
Give yourself time to accomplish goals and adjust to your new routine. Most importantly, talk to someone — a close friend, a peer, a don, a fellow international student — about your experiences. Counselling Services is also available if you need more help.
Explore your new home, but stay connected with your old one — it is important to explore Kitchener-Waterloo (KW) to learn about the area and what it has to offer.
Spend a day in Uptown, explore new restaurants, and find new favourites. However, it is also important to keep in touch with people back home. Homesickness is inevitable, but staying in touch with family and friends can ease the feeling of missing home.
Learning the language is a big part of becoming accustomed to a new place. Students often seek opportunities to improve their English, and UW offers many programs to connect them to resources.
The Renison English Language Institute (ELI) offers many courses and programs to provide students with better English skills.
Among its more academic programs are English for Success, a four-week summer program; English for Academic Success, an intensive 12-week program with preparation for standardized test preparation; and General English at Renison, a four-week program for practice in reading and writing.
The ELI also offers programs connecting international students with student volunteers through the Conversation Partner Program. For more information of Renison’s programs, visit uwaterloo.ca/english-language-institute/.
The Writing and Communication Centre also offers programs for students to improve their English.
The English Practice Community includes conversation circles and cafés, as well as opportunities to practice writing.
They also offer general help with academic needs, such as tutoring or helping with assignments. Online courses and workshops are also offered.
The International Peer Community is also a way for students to connect with other international students that have been in UW for longer.
Students can apply for this program with the Student Success Office.
In addition, WUSA also has a service called the International and Canadian Student Network, which connects international and Canadian students through biweekly events — the Babble café and Cultural Connection.
Although facing a new environment, culture, and language can seem exciting and overwhelming at the same time.
It’s not an impossible adventure. Learning to live in a new place with new people takes time and patience.
Mastering the English language — just like mastering Mandarin, Hindi, or Dutch — cannot be done overnight. It’s important to give yourself time to grow, learn and to make sure that you’re getting all the support you need. You’ll be just fine.