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Transitioning to university as an International student

By Chisom Alaoma

Leaving your home country is a big step, and choosing a country like Canada can be exciting and overwhelming at the same time. Here are some things I went through as an international student coming to Canada for university. 

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For me, the transition was not easy at all. Because I am from an English speaking country, I thought it would be the same or somewhat the same, but it was completely different. The way people spoke, what they ate and the way they approached other people was extremely different from my country. So expect a lot of chill greetings and a lot of eye contact. I remember going through all the stages of transitioning into a new country:

The Honeymoon Stage

The first step for me was the honeymoon stage. I was very excited and inquisitive about everything. The great thing about this stage is that I didn’t even feel the initial shock - all I felt was nervousness and anticipation. Most people I met were very nice and all-around helpful. However, the next stage was when reality really hit.

Despair

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I’ll call this stage despair. Once the adrenaline wore off, I started to face the reality that I was not in the comfort of my home anymore. It dawned on me that I was practically in charge of my life, and this affected me both emotionally and mentally. The ease of being at home wears off, and reality shows its true face. I remember being so quiet and more introverted than ever (and I was already an introvert). For some, it takes a few days, at most months, to leave this stage; however, if you are like me, you will probably still be in this stage after four years. Just kidding. However, it did take me a long time to get to the next stage; let's call it acceptance. 

Acceptance

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Acceptance, at this stage; I began to accept where I was, and things become more of a habit than an adventure. I started to see this place as a home rather than a foreign country. Actually, at this point, my “home country” became a foreign country - which leads me to the last stage: adaptation.

Adaptation

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Adaptation is when I realized that this country is a big part of me and my growth and just who I am and who I will eventually become in the future. Things started to feel less forced and more natural. 

“Take one step at a time”

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It is going to be hard, it is going to be different, and it is going to be a roller coaster of emotions. There is no manual to surviving university, everyone has a different story, and the way you choose to write it all depends on you. Another fact is that university is indeed your defining moments; it helps you understand yourself better and gain more understanding of the people around you. 

When I came here, I got a lot of advice from random people. They told me to “take one step at a time,” and I will make it. They were lying! 

In all my years in university, it was never one step at a time; it is always everything all at once. I had to be active at every moment and know what was coming next. University became 95% of my life because it was of the utmost importance to me at the time. If you let school guide you, it will guide your story and direct your destination. 

Finally, you need to look at everyone around you because I think what we all seem to forget is that everyone both international and domestic are all going through some things. We are all trying to figure out life and our purpose. The only difference is that us international students are more lost than domestic students because as we are figuring university as well as figuring out Canada. Nevertheless, I think you all have this in the bag; I tell you if I can survive, you all can do it and be incredible in all your steps in life. 

Enough of that sappy stuff. On a serious note, if you’re ever stuck or need help, please use the university’s resources because, whether you like it or not, there are people and resources here for you. So I urge to use the resources available to you - for more information on some of the services available, visit the Student Life website.digital community themed item: coffee mug

Below are some supports in place to help International students with a successful transition: