Things I Wish I Knew as an Incoming International Student

This blog post is written by guest blogger Tee, an undergraduate Sociology student at the University of Toronto.

Coming as an international student to a new country can be both exciting and nerve-wracking. Even though you meet new people and learn new things, there are times when you face challenges. The University of Toronto offers a large number of resources to the incoming students including orientation to help first years feel prepared. However, there were some things I wish I had known in my first year as someone who came to the country for the first time. 

1. The weather is so unpredictable at times.

Tee, wearing a black winter jacket on a white snowy day.

Although I had never been to Toronto before I actually started to study here, I heard of it being quite cold and as someone who adores the winters, I am not complaining. I would say I did underestimate how much it would snow though. Snow boots and a jacket help though, with unlimited refills of hot chocolate of course. 

To my surprise, the temperature in summer can rise up to 35 degrees Celsius on a sunny day and heat warnings are not unusual. I packed very light for the summer which wasn’t the best decision.

2. It can be hard to make friends.

Toronto is a multicultural city and U of T itself has a large share of international students. I arrived here later in the first semester and couldn’t meet many people during orientation or at in-person classes. So, I joined the Indian Student's Organization and was eager to know more people from the same community. 

I am inclined toward Psychology and decided to join the Psychological Health Society which allowed me to meet people with different perspectives. Not just this but living at residence and being in the residence council helped me a lot to make more connections. Hence, I would suggest joining some club or student organization that suits your interest and get to know other students.

3. Your grades can go down in first year.

Transitioning into university can be stressful. For me, it was hard to deal with a few low grades. There were times, I'd be very stressed and work under pressure. My biggest suggestion is to take care of your mental health and know that in your first year, you are still learning, still adjusting and it is okay to have some low grades. What is more important, is how you use available resources to improve them in the future.

4. Your mental health is very important.

I have always prioritized myself, but coming into university, dealing with courses, and getting to know a different country left me no time to take care of myself. After months of unhealthy eating, irregular sleep cycles and stressful days, I finally took baby steps towards self-love and since then, it has been better.

I am a foodie and I usually crave north Indian food so now I use food for comfort. In addition to that, I have started to hang out more in nature and it has helped me restore my peace. Again, life as an international student can be tough with juggling work, study and so much more. It is always a good practice to either find ways to deal with stress and/or talk to people around you. 

Tee walking away, on a bridge with green trees and blue skies.

U of T also has mental health support including an app called U of T Health Student Support (formerly U of T My SSP) which is quite helpful, too.

I hope this helps you feel more prepared and I hope you have an amazing first year here! ☺

Want to be a guest blogger at Life At U of T? Check out our Submission Guidelines.

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