Starting university and moving away from home is always a big transition. But what if you’re also moving from another country and English isn’t your first language?

The University of Waterloo accepts more than 1,800 new international students into its undergraduate and graduate programs each year and in the weeks before they arrive, the International Student Experience (ISE) team in the Student Success Office, delivers resources and information to help them have a smooth transition to their new lives at Waterloo.

How we help international students

The international student guidebook walks students through what to do before they arrive, covering topics such as immigration documents, accommodations, arriving in Canada, Canadian culture and what to do on the first few days on campus. It even includes handy checklists to help them feel prepared for their arrival. Students are also encouraged to connect with their global representatives, Waterloo students who are happy to share advice or answer country-specific questions.  “I emailed my global rep after I was admitted,” says international student Shuningbo Juno Ye. “He helped me feel comfortable about what life in Canada and uWaterloo would be like for me, and answered lots of questions.”

A popular service is the free, bus pick-up at Pearson International Airport. This eases the anxiety of “How do I get to uWaterloo?” for both students and their parents back home. Current students volunteer to give a warm uWaterloo welcome to international students as they arrive in Canada. “It was a great experience to volunteer with the airport bus pick-up as I had the chance to help new students feel more comfortable about their arrival,” says international student, Avin Low.  “And I got to meet new friends, answer lots of questions and help them make it safely to campus.”

Practising your English

At the beginning of term, international students are invited to a reception where they learn more about the campus community, including the resources available to them, and make some face-to-face connections with staff, faculty and fellow international students. They can also be matched with an upper-year student who will meet them weekly to help them find their way around, practise their English skills and connect them to campus life and new groups of friends.

The international student experience can be fraught with challenges and the Student Success Office is a great first step to help get students headed in the right direction. The ISE team offers ongoing advising, programs and workshops about cultural transition, immigration and English language support.