October 10, 2014
Tips for New Immigrant Students in Canada
October is a busy and challenging month for many students. With mid-term work and adjustment to new classes and/ or school environments, it can be a stressful time. For immigrants who are either attending school in Canada for the first time or have not yet fully settled, the experience can be both exciting and uncertain. Immigrants who are still learning either English or French – the two official languages in Canada – and have yet to develop their social networks may benefit from support programs and services geared specifically to address their unique circumstances. That is why it is interesting to hear about the initiative implemented in Archbishop M.C. O’Neill Catholic High School in Regina, which provides language training and peer mentorship opportunities for newcomer students. This program matches upper-year immigrant students with lower-year ones and provides opportunities for them to foster new friendships. In addition, participating students exchange tips on how to navigate their schools as immigrants, which is important because their experiences are quite different from those of non-immigrants. Some universities and colleges also have specialized departments and resources specifically for immigrant and international students that offer a range of services that includes language training, job seeking assistance, sightseeing events, and more. A few examples include University of Toronto Immigrant Support & Awareness (UTISA) and McGill University’s International Student Services (ISS).
Looking back to when I attended school in Toronto for the first time as a newcomer thirteen years ago, I wish I utilized similar resources that would have made my transition to school and to the city a lot smoother. I was a shy fifteen-year old and was quite overwhelmed with my new environment. Though I did not have much difficulty communicating in English as I had learned the language as a child prior to moving to Canada, I certainly could have benefited from immigrant student-focused programs. Nevertheless, I have found my way and am proud to call Toronto home; I successfully graduated from high school and am finally scheduled to graduate in a few days from university. I would say that part of my academic success especially in university can be attributed to my engagement in courses and events that delved into immigrants’ unique lives and issues in Canada. These provided me with the opportunity to make sense of my own experiences and relate these with those of other immigrants, as well as enable me to expand my network. Thus, I highly encourage other immigrant students to be proactive: explore your new environment and check with your classmates, schools, and community centres for information on existing courses, events, groups, programs, and services that are geared towards addressing immigrant or international students’ experiences. This might require doing a bit of research or even starting your own student club where you can exchange information, improve language skills, and meet new friends.
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