Your essential guide to international student resources

Students working together

Written by Michelle (she/her), student

Travelling to a new country, starting your studies, and getting involved might seem intimidating at first, but don’t worry — we have plenty of resources available to make your transition to Waterloo as easy as possible. We’re here to support you in all the steps you’ll take.

Bridge to Academic Success in English (BASE) pathway program

If your English language scores are just below our requirements, you may be admitted to our Bridge to Academic Success in English (BASE) program for full-time, first-year undergraduate students. The BASE program is here to help you in your transition to Waterloo — you can think of it as a steppingstone before beginning your full-time studies. In BASE, you’ll have the opportunity to develop your academic and English communication skills while earning credit towards your degree.

Students looking at a laptop together

One of the best parts about BASE is the amazing, close-knit community you’ll be a part of. From joining an online texting community to living in residence with your BASE peers, it’s easy to form some great connections and find others who are starting the same journey.

Learn more about the benefits of BASE →

Preparing for Waterloo

You can check out our services for international students for tips on things to do before and after you arrive in Canada. It has an awesome guide with tips on how Waterloo will help you prepare your immigration documents, find accommodations, organize your finances, get your travel plans ready, and much more!

Don’t forget to participate in our Waterloo Ready program — it’s your opportunity to get involved with the community and access some insider tips and resources before the school year even begins. You can also register for our fall Orientation on campus (you’ll get an email telling you when and how to sign up). During International Orientation, you’ll join a community of current students and faculty and participate in a bunch of activities and events to help welcome you to Canada and be part of the Waterloo community. We want you to feel right at home as you connect with new classmates, explore the unique traditions of your faculty, and learn what it means to be a Warrior!

Student attending orientation

Supports and resources once you arrive

Student success and academic support

The Student Success Office (SSO) is the place to go once you’re a student here and are looking for resources to help you get started at Waterloo, wanting to explore some new opportunities, or need some support on your journey to success.

Some of the programs and services offered include:

Advisor helping a student

If you’re looking for academic support, you can reach out to your academic advisor — someone who’s similar to a high school guidance counsellor. They are there to guide you in your academic pathway — from changing courses to adding a minor, provide information on rules and policies, and help resolve academic issues. For questions about degree requirements or course selection, they are the people to ask!

English language resources on campus

If you’re looking for extra English language support in an academic setting, check out our English Language Institute at Renison University College. There are a variety of English language programs and courses to help you improve your skills. Whether you want to take an intensive course or just brush up on some communication skills, there are plenty of options to choose from!

Writing a paper? Working on a presentation? Our Writing and Communication Centre is here to support you in all your communication needs. They offer lots of online resources and in-person opportunities — you can make an appointment, stop by a drop-in session, or get feedback over email.

Instructor guiding students using laptops

Meeting your peers and exploring Waterloo

One way to familiarize yourself with Waterloo is through the International and Canadian Student Network, a service run by the Waterloo Undergraduate Student Association (WUSA). They strive to make everyone feel welcome in the community by holding several events each term for local, international, and exchange students. Joining in on these events can be a fun new experience, lets you meet other students, and gives you a chance to explore the area!

If you’re looking to connect with some other international students, check out the International Peer Community! You’ll get to join a group of international students and upper-year volunteers and take part in community-based activities each month. These activities will help you build a support network, learn about Canada, find out more about other cultures, and improve your interaction skills.

I recommend IPC because of its exciting events and also because it gives every international student a great opportunity to develop strong networks with other students from other programs around campus.

Keerthi (he/him), Electrical and Computer Engineering

Another program specifically for international students is Breakfast Seminar. The seminars take place during our fall and winter terms and give you the chance to meet up with your fellow students to enjoy a light breakfast and learn more about Waterloo.

Sometimes it’s easier to connect with others virtually, so why not find a pen pal? During the winter terms, you can join our UWinterloo program where you’ll be matched with a student, staff, faculty, or alumni pen pal. Once matched, you and your pen pal can decide on the best way to communicate (e.g., email, video call, or letters) and take some time to get to know each other through fun activities!

Group of students talking together

Trying to practice your everyday spoken English? Drop by our English Conversation Circles (ECC) for a safe space where you can meet some new friends! You’ll get to improve your conversation skills through scenario-based activities and have open discussions about Canada, Waterloo, and the international community.

The ECC program gave me the space to practice and be a more confidence speaker among my friends.

Fourth-year Engineering student

Cultural clubs

Did you know that we have over 200 student clubs and 30 athletic clubs? Getting involved is a great way to take a break from your coursework, explore your interests, and meet some people on campus. Whether you like crafting, music, or want to join a cultural club, there are plenty of options to choose from! Among our cultural clubs are the Chinese Students Association, Culture and Language Exchange Club, Indian Cultural Association, and lots more.


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