International students have support to help with transition to university

A new academic year means a new schedule, new classes and deadlines. International students usually add another layer to this: they may find the idea of living in another country overwhelming.

“International students go through the ‘honeymoon’ phase at the beginning, when everything is new and exciting, but after a while they may start feeling lonely and missing their culture,” says Berak Hussain, an international student counsellor. When students experience this, they may start skipping classes and missing deadlines, or may develop sleeping and eating disorders, she says.

Hussain provides assessment, counselling and referral for international students who experience problems transitioning to Canadian culture, or have more personal concerns like anxiety and depression.

“International students are more vulnerable than other students,” Hussain explains. She identifies culture shock as being the most prominent problem among this category of students.

Although she also meets with domestic students, Hussain’s work is focused on international counselling. A well-seasoned traveller, she has dealt with culture shock herself.

“I understand that when you come here everything may seem cold and distant, and you get homesick,” she explains. “This background helps when students walk through the door and you can establish that connection with them.”

Hussain and her colleagues at the Health and Counselling Services are always busy, but the peaks are at the beginning of the year and during midterms and final exams. Most students are referred by professors or by staff who notice a change in behavior. Hussain also works closely with the International Student Services Office, the Student Academic Success Centre and Learning Support Services.

In October, Hussain organized “International Rendez-Vous” workshops which offered international students an opportunity to meet each other, especially those of similar backgrounds. Other workshops are being planned throughout the academic year on topics like coping with stress, anxiety, eating disorders or grief.

“These are brilliant students who come here on scholarships but they just need to learn some stress management techniques.”

This entry was written by Anca Gurzu and posted in the issue. Tags applied to this article are: , . Leave a comment, bookmark the permalink or share the following short URL for this article via social media:

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