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7 Tips For Incoming International Students

The opinions expressed in this article are the writer’s own and do not reflect the views of Her Campus.
This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at Carleton chapter.

Moving to another country for university has been one of the scariest experiences of my life but also the best decision I have ever made. I decided to leave my home country, Mexico, to move to Canada and study my undergraduate degree here. Although I am very happy now, the transition was very hard for me. It is very challenging to leave everything you know and grew up with, so here are some tips that helped me get through my first year at Carleton as an International Student.

1. Get familiar with the city

My first piece of advice is to get familiar with the place you are moving into. This is something I definitely didn’t do before coming to Ottawa and caused me to struggle a lot in the beginning. Make sure to know how public transportation, banking, rent, and daily life work.

Ideally, you should try to do this before moving to Canada but this is also something that you can learn on your own on your first days here. The International Student Service Office at Carleton offers an online course, I-Start, explaining key concepts for students moving to Canada that you can access before moving in.

2. Attend orientation events

I know it seems intimidating when you know no one yet but attending orientation events can be a great way to meet new people and find friends. Although I didn’t attend Fall Orientation, I heard great stuff from other people that did. They offer fun activities such as dance parties, canal games, gaming nights, etc. One thing I find is that Fall Orientation can be a bit demanding since it has activities that can take up your entire day and that can be difficult when you’re moving in and trying to adjust to a new country. However, Carleton offers more chill orientation events that are great for International Students who are feeling overwhelmed during this time. The ISSO also offers the International Welcome Week which is filled with activities around Ottawa for students to get to know the city. This is where I met some of my closest friends who were going through the same process as me. Additionally, I attended Academic Orientation Day which helped me get to know people from my program and meet some of the professors.

3. Look into clubs and societies

This was a lifesaver for me. Carleton offers a Club Expo at the beginning of the semester (which is where I found out about Her Campus!), where you can get to know all of the clubs and societies offered by students. From a Dungeons and Dragons Club to a Climbing Club, there is a place for everyone and this is a great way to find people with similar interests as you. You can also find societies for people from all over the world. I joined H.O.L.A.S. which is a space for Latin American people and this helped me find people from my culture and feel less alone.

4. Explore on your own

Don’t be afraid to do things on your own. Personally, it took me a while to build strong connections with other people, and in the meantime, I found activities to do on my own. I would explore Ottawa and find cute coffee shops or parks where I could read and listen to music. It can be challenging to be on your own so I find that going outside and doing your hobbies can help with feelings of loneliness.

5. Say yes

Constantly socializing with a lot of people is something I find quite stressful and I can easily avoid making plans to hang out with people. Something I challenged myself to do when I moved to Canada was to say yes to whatever I got invited to. Although it was overwhelming, going out with people helped me make connections. I would go to clubs and museums, and this way, I found the people who became my closest friends. It can be easy to avoid socializing but trust me, say yes more!

6. Keep connected with your home

It can be exciting to be on your own and have freedom, but it’s also completely normal to feel homesick at times. For the first month I was at school, I would FaceTime my family every day just to chat. It is important to keep connected with your family and friends at home because they can provide you with a safe space to talk through your moving journey. If you need to talk to them every day, then schedule time to do that.

7. Don’t be afraid to ask for help

Remember that you are in a new place and there are a lot of things that can be different from your own country. Personally, Canada’s university system is very different from Mexico’s so I would constantly feel confused and get lost. Don’t be scared to ask for help.

At Carleton, there are tons of resources that are there to guide you through everything. One of my recommendations is to visit the ISSO, they can help you with anything legal or refer you to places where they can help you more. Also, I joined the First Year Connections Program, which provides one-on-one sessions with an upper-year student who can give you advice, lets you know about all of Carleton’s resources available and gives you a space to discuss your first year experience. Another great way to get help is to attend your Professor’s office hours, this way you can form a connection with your professor and they’ll be happy to answer all of your questions, such as class material, upcoming assignments, or even recommendations about Ottawa.

I know that this can be a challenging time. It took me the entirety of first semester to feel like I was finally adapting and getting a grasp on my new life. These are the things I did to get through it, and now I wouldn’t trade my experience for anything.

List of helpful resources:

Academic Orientation Day: https://carleton.ca/csas/academic-orientation-day/

I-Start International Orientation: https://carleton.ca/isso/new-students/i-start-orientation/

International Welcome Week 2023: https://carleton.ca/isso/international-welcome-week/

CUSA clubs: https://www.cusaclubs.ca/club-directory/

Fall Orientation: https://carleton.ca/fallorientation/

Andrea Leon

Carleton '26

Andrea is a Social Media Team Member at the Her Campus chapter of Carleton University in Ottawa. She manages and creates content for this chapter's social media, such as Instagram, TikTok, and Twitter. Beyond Her Campus, she is a second-year student in the Communication and Media Studies program. She is originally from Mexico and moved to Canada for school. Andrea is very passionate about women's issues and loves writing for Her Campus. She loves being involved with the media and entertainment world. In her free time, she can be found reading, crocheting, and listening to Taylor Swift. She also loves walking around the city and visiting cute coffee shops!