Being an International Student

Being an International Student

So it’s mid-July. You’re probably chilling in your hometown, a considerable distance from U of T, scrolling through photos of campus on Google Images. Maybe you’ve changed your Facebook cover photo to one of the Toronto skyline with the caption ‘U of T Class of 2019! So excited! <3<3’ while not having actually ever seen or set foot on campus because…

google map showing distance between karachi, pakistan and toronto

you’re an international student and you live thousands of miles away. #internationalstudentproblems

I feel you. I know what it’s like to think the weather isn’t that bad and forget to check the windchill numbers ( -1, feels like -10. Go figure.) or not quite know how to deal with milk in a plastic bag (yes, that’s a thing here!) or look on enviously as your friends bring the contents of their entire homes onto res while you’re stuck with two measly suitcases and a carry-on.

screenshots of weather app iphone showing temperature as compared to temperature with windchill
one of the many #internationalstudentproblems: not knowing which temperature to dress for

But incoming globetrotters – FEAR NOT. Having lived here for a grand total of 339 days today, I am obviously an expert on all things Canadian and am only too happy to share some tips and advice to make your continental leap a little bit easier:

1.  As soon as you arrive in Toronto, get important stuff out of the way

This includes getting bank accounts set up, picking out a phone plan, getting your UHIP card, applying for a SIN number if you wish to work in Canada and more. There’s a really handy list of things to get done on the CIE website as well as some FAQs that you can check out here and here.

There will also be a U of T Welcome booth at Pearson Airport to help you with any questions you may have about arriving in Canada. Watch the video here!

Also, make sure you have all your important documents in one safe place at all times! There’s nothing worse than being in a political science lecture, hearing the word ‘passport’ and mentally panicking because you can’t remember the last time you saw yours. I spent the next two hours of lecture envisioning myself being deported. Not fun.

2.  Be prepared

As soon as I arrived in Toronto, I made sure to input some important numbers into my phone’s contact list – such as my country’s embassy, police, medical and fire services, and more. Embarassing confession: I also made a map of the TTC my phone wallpaper in case I got lost.

iPhone screenshot of wallpaper with TTC map on it
today, i can name all of the stations on Line 1 in order without cheating
go on, quiz me.

3.  Do a little research on Canadian slang

By the end of the year you will understand the sentence ‘can you lend me a couple of toonies so I can pick up a double-double and pop from Tim’s and we can chill on the chesterfield and watch the Maple Leafs play?

you will also learn the art of sneaking ‘eh?’s into daily conversation.

not to worry – this should help you update your vocabulary

4.  Don’t mentally convert prices into your home currency.

This will only depress you.

a photo of me gaping at obscenely priced items
that costs WHAT?! I could get that for like five rupees back home!


5. Try recording your lectures

As someone who grew up speaking English and watching American TV shows and movies, I thought I was well acquainted with the standard North American accent. But sometimes while taking notes during lecture, I find myself missing a word here and there or not quite catching what the prof has said. It’s always useful to have a recording to play back and fill in those unsightly note-gaps.

Just make sure that your professor is okay with recording before you start!

6.  Explore!

Downtown Toronto is full of amazing places to see (and eat) and while you probably won’t find restaurants dedicated to ‘Canadian’ cuisine there are lots of delicious things like poutine, butter tarts, beaver tails, and nanaimo bars that I have been informed are very Canadian.

7.  Take advantage of all the resources on campus to help you adapt

I mentioned this in my previous post and I’ll say it again –  you are paying a considerable amount of money (read: a small fortune) to be here so why not take advantage of everything you’re offered?

The Career Center, the Writing Center, the CIE and the Multi-Faith Center are all great places to check out.

8.  Meet new people

As tempting as it is to just stick to the international student crowd or people from your home country, there’s no harm in diversifying your network a bit.

Toronto is one of the most multicultural cities in Canada and it’s always a good idea to meet people from backgrounds different than yours.

And lastly, just remember that you don’t need to wrap yourself in plaid or tote around a hockey stick to fit in. Just be yourself and try not to worry too much – you’re going to have a great time!


2 comments on “Being an International Student

  1. I’m heading to Toronto soon and found this very useful.
    Also didn’t know Canadians had their very own slang….. interesting…

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