York welcomes international students

A group of five York University students walking down York Boulevard in the fall

By Elaine Smith

This fall, York University welcomes to its campuses more than 2,000 new international students who bring their unique experiences, perspectives, talents and skills to the University and to Canada.

Home to more than 10,000 international students from 178 countries, York is a community of diverse experiences, languages, cultures and viewpoints, notes Vinitha Gengatharan, assistant vice-president, global engagement and partnerships.

“This is a privilege we don’t take lightly,” she says. “We know that each journey to Canada began well before a plane, train or car ride to Toronto. We appreciate the trust placed in choosing York and the years of hard work that our international students and their families have put in to make studying at York University, far from home, possible.”

Gengatharan says the University is well-equipped to help steer international students through the challenges they may face, such as housing, finances and adjusting to a new culture, through supports and resources offered through York International (YI).

“We know how important international students are to our community and how much strength and value they bring to York and to Canada. York is committed to continuing to advocate with our municipal, provincial and federal governments to improve services, resources and processes that impact international students.”  

First impressions

Nargis Rafie
Nargis Rafie

Nargis Rafie grew up in Afghanistan and came to Canada as a refugee. She transferred to York this fall to study computer science and is living off campus. After attending YI’s orientation for international and exchange students, as well as a shopping expedition to help students buy essentials, she shared her first impressions of the University.

“The campus is beautiful and the staff is very friendly, helpful and quick to respond,” Rafie said.

Orientation, she said, helped her become familiar with campus and with the resources she needed to set up her new life. It also helped her meet other international students who she plans to stay in touch with.

Nigerian computer science student Fatima Yusuf transferred to York for her second year after attending another Ontario university.

“I wanted a school that had a co-op program and I wanted to be exposed to a more diverse group of people,” she said. “I volunteered at York’s orientation for international and exchange students, checking people at the registration desk. It was nice meeting different people, even briefly, and it was a diverse group.

Her twin sister, Khadija Yusuf, also transferred to York and will be studying commerce with an eye toward becoming an accountant. She jumped right into action, volunteering at orientation and attending a special session for students in the Faculty of Liberal Arts & Professional Studies. She is already planning to join the accounting association and will see if her schedule permits other activities.

“I felt that York had better opportunities: more people, more resources and more activities,” said Khadija.

Commitment to international students

Welcoming international students is part of York University’s commitment to advancing global engagement, as stated in the University Academic Plan and York’s new Internationalization and Global Engagement Strategy.

Sarah Bay-Cheng, dean of the School of the Arts, Media, Performance & Design, is aware of the value international students contribute to the learning experience.

“Knowledge doesn’t stay in one place, but relies on the vital movement and exchange of ideas around the world,” says Bay-Cheng. “Global networks are, therefore, essential to the success of researchers, creatives and students everywhere.”

York International works closely with the Office of the Vice-Provost, Students and Faculties to design and deliver programs and services to ensure international students succeed and feel at home on campus. It serves as a central hub for international students, offering immigration advising, health insurance, orientation, social events, workshops, academic and career supports, and more.

“We are proud to provide so many excellent students from other countries with a home-away-from-home, and we are committed to ensuring their experience is a fulfilling one, academically, socially and developmentally,” says Woo Kim, director of international scholar and student services for York International.

“We work closely with university partners and Faculties to support students and provide an excellent experience for international students.” 

For example, York International offers a Global Peer Program to support prospective and incoming first-year students, keeping them active and engaged as soon as they’ve received their offer to York, to better help them navigate their student journey. Current upper-year students remain connected with newly admitted students through monthly check-ins, virtual group connections and ongoing virtual support. This summer, 112 students completed the program.

Once international students arrive on campus, they are invited to an orientation program geared specifically toward their needs. They receive immigration guidance, are introduced to local community resources, such as banks and cellphone providers, and have the opportunity to network with other incoming students. They also engage in academic orientation delivered by the Faculties. 

YI and the Faculties also assist international students with their needs, either through one-one-one guidance, career workshops or social opportunities.

“Our goal is to support international students achieve success, in whatever way they define it, whichever path they choose,” said Gengatharan. “When international students succeed, it is a win for everyone at York and in Canada. “And, to our international students – you belong here, you bring so much to our community and we’re so glad you’ve chosen us.”  

Fall orientation kicks off with events for Black, mature and international students

Four students walking on York University's Keele Campus in the fall

With fall term classes beginning on Sept. 6, the official start of the new academic year at York University is almost upon us. For students who are new to York, this is always an especially exciting and busy time, with a long list of orientation events to participate in and keep track of. 

The Transition and Orientation 2023 website helps with all of that, directing community members to the many events and activities happening in the lead-up to September and beyond. There, students will find:

  • a schedule of events and corresponding registration information;
  • the new student checklist;
  • a college finder tool;
  • an extensive resource guide of student support services;
  • information for parents and families;
  • housing and residence details;
  • contact information; and
  • important social media accounts to follow.

One of York’s top priorities is to ensure that all students feel welcome and supported in every way during their university experience. Guiding all transition and orientation programming is a focus on decolonization, equity, diversity and inclusion. This means there will be many events designed specifically for priority communities, including (but not limited to) Indigenous, Black, international, 2SLGBTQIA+, first in the family, mature and transfer students.

Below are details about the first few events kicking off York’s 2023 Orientation. Stay tuned for more in YFile in the coming weeks.

Black Excellence at York University (BE YU) Welcome Event 

The BE YU Welcome Event is designed to celebrate incoming post-secondary students who self-identify as Black. The event’s theme is “BE YU and Getting to Know You,” and the intention is to delve into the Black student experience in post-secondary while building personal and professional relationships and celebrating the achievements of incoming York students. 

The BE YU Welcome Event will be held on Aug. 16 from 5 to 8 p.m. at the University’s Second Student Centre. Incoming students who are interested in attending can register here. For more information about BE YU, visit futurestudents.yorku.ca/black-excellence.

Mature and Transfer Student Orientation Sessions

Mature and transfer students can attend an orientation session either virtually on Aug. 17 or in person on Aug. 22. The session is intended to help ease their transition to their new school and increase their chances of success. They will have the opportunity to meet the Atkinson Centre for Mature and Part-time Students (ACMAPS) staff, hear personal stories from other mature students, have mature student learning myths debunked, and connect with other mature and transfer students. For complete details and to register, visit the Mature and Transfer Student Orientation Sessions page

In addition to the orientation session, Ready, Set, YU! is another program available to mature and transfer students, providing access to transition coaches who can offer specialized support to help students meet their transitional milestones and successfully navigate campus resources. 

International and Exchange Student Orientation 

Incoming international and exchange students students are invited to attend the International and Exchange Student Orientation taking place on Aug. 28 from 8:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. There, they will learn about the various support services available to international students and have an opportunity to meet with on- and off-campus vendors such as banks, cell phone providers and more. For those who cannot attend on Aug. 28, the session will be repeated on Sept. 8 and 14.  

In addition, an optional event being offered is Shopping Essentials with York International on Aug. 27, where students can take a guided trip to nearby shopping centres to purchase any essentials they may need for the start of the school year. 

For complete details and to register for either event, visit the International and Exchange Student Orientation website.  

For more information about York University’s 2023 Transition and Orientation events, visit yorku.ca/orientation.