International student orientation aims to engage and inform

Arriving in Canada to attend university for the first time can be an overwhelming and sometimes isolating experience. To combat that, York International has rolled out welcome week for the first time prior to orientation to help new international and exchange students develop a social network early on.

“We’re trying to get them engaged as soon as possible so they start having a positive experience with the University right away,” says Craig Wright, coordinator of international student programs at York International. “Having a social network really influences the student’s ability to do well academically.” It helps foster friendships so they have a peer to turn to when they have a small problem, which often prevents it from becoming a big one. Welcome week continues until tomorrow.

This year's international and exchange students get to know each other during welcome weekRight: This year’s international and exchange students get to know each other during welcome week

But that’s not the only thing that is new this fall. Orientation, which is free and mandatory for international and exchange students, has also undergone changes to make it more accessible, dynamic and appealing. “My focus has always been the students,” says Wright.

Taking the recommendations of a recent focus group of former international students into consideration, Wright says York International has revamped orientation into shorter and more interactive sessions. Instead of two sessions, three will be offered with a focus on what they need to know the most. The sessions will cover culture, laws, immigration and health, “Canadianisms”, cross-cultural adjustment, an introduction to Toronto, student survival, as well as the customs and taboos of the city and the country in which they will be living.

 International and exchange students attend an orientation session last yearLeft: International and exchange students attend an orientation session last year

Following the sessions, the students will then be directed to websites where they can access more information and resources. The sessions are designed to help students adapt and integrate more quickly in their new country. They will still get the same critical information as in previous years, but it will be delivered in more manageable bites.

One way York International is doing that is by running a month-long Living in Canada Series starting the second week of September, looking at topics such as finance, safety, healthy eating, laundry and cleaning, and work programs for international students. The series will run again during fall co-curricular week. “Many of the students have never had to cook or clean for themselves,” says Wright. “Usually around mid-October, we’ll get a student coming in asking when the maid comes in.”

The series will convey the same information that was delivered during previous orientations, but it will now cover even more. The Living in Canada Series will begin with a session on safety on Sept. 12, followed by one on food, groceries and healthy eating on Sept. 14, cell phones and communication on Sept. 20, laundry and cleaning on Sept. 22, banking on Sept. 26, credit cards on Sept. 28, immigration on Oct. 4 and work programs for international students on Oct. 6. All sessions will take place from noon to 1pm at 242 York Lanes, Keele campus.

The first International student orientation session runs today, from 8:30am to 4pm, in Room 206, Accolade West Building. The next one takes place tomorrow, from 8:30am to 4pm, at The Underground Restaurant in the basement of the Student Centre and Saturday, Sept. 17, from 10am to 5:30pm, at The Underground Restaurant. Students need to attend only one of the three sessions.

 International and exchange students field questions from new students during last year's orientationTo register, visit the York International Orientation Registration web page.

Right: International and exchange students field questions from new students during last year’s orientation

In addition, York International will also host two social events for new international and exchange students. There are a limited amount of seats for each event, so get your tickets early to avoid disappointment. The social events are as follows:

  • Centre Island Picnic
    Sunday, Sept. 4
    Time to be determined
    Cost: Free

Transportation and lunch will be provided. Tickets will be available at the Sept. 1 and Sept. 2 orientations.

  • Niagara Falls Trip
    Saturday, Sept. 24
    8:30am to 6pm
    Cost: $35.00

The cost of the ticket includes transportation, a tour guide and the opportunity to see the falls, take a boat tour of the falls on the Maid of the Mist and visit several local attractions, such as the Floral Clock, the town of Niagara-on-the-Lake, the Clifton Hill Amusement area, Skylon Tower and Niagara River Gorge.

Students will need to buy their own lunch. Tickets will be available for sale on Monday, Sept. 19, in 242 York Lanes from 11am to 3pm. Tickets can be purchased with cash only, and it is recommended that you bring exact change.

For more information, visit the York International website.

For more information on social and academic orientation at York for students and parents, visit York’s RED Zone website.