Throngs of excited students gathered on Labour Day on the green grass outside the CCIT building for the International Student Orientation. The event, which was organized by campus life divisions such as utmONE, the International Student Resource Centre and UTM Student Housing and Residence Life, aimed to greet international students and facilitate their integration on campus. Approximately 1,700 international students have been accepted to the University of Toronto; their numbers continues to rise.
The residence and ISRC staff trained for many hours under the guidance of student affairs representative Veronica Vasquez, who worked hard to prepare a day-long itinerary of events that both volunteers and participating first-year students alike visibly enjoyed.
I think that both the students and staff enjoyed the international orientation, said Harpreet Randhawa, a third-year student volunteering with the ISRC. It was the best way to kick off the 2009-2010 academic year. After a warm welcome from Dean of Student Affairs Mark Overton, ISRC team leaders gathered international students into groups. Within their teams, these international students and their Canadian peers engaged in a plethora of icebreaker activities to ease the newcomers transition to the Mississauga Campus and build a social and academically oriented network. The ice-breaker activities were designed in such a manner to encouraged international students and their peers to share their culture in a fun, safe and comfortable environment, said Aastha Sahni, a teamleader and a local student. Similar positive comments were voiced by former UTM international student and utmONE organizer, Vasquez, who stated, The activities reflected the true spirit of the University of Toronto as a mix of internationally-minded local Canadian students and international first-year students got together to learn about the ISRC and its valuable services such as Lets Talk Turkey, Global Café and the Buddy Program. Sonal Castelino, an international participant, added that the activities gave Canadian students and staff an ideal opportunity to gain cultural enrichment and volunteer experience. By taking time out to organizing events and services for international students at UTM, they benefited from an exchange of diverse experiences. A presentation given by the International Student Centre on the St. George Campus and UTM Peer Health Services coordinator Chad Jankowski educated students on the University Health Insurance Plan, Canadian cultural norms and topics such as taxes, study permit, student health and student visas. A question—and-answer period helped calm students anxieties over other issues not raised in the presentation.
Chris McGrath, Vice-Dean of Student Affairs, provided positive feedback on this years orientation. International student orientation was one of the many successes of the UTMOne Orientation Program this year.
Student orientations help ease the transition of local and international students by addressing the complexity of the university environment and the needs of first-year students. With this information comfortably in mind, UTMs new international students should well be on the path to making Canada and the campus their new home.