Pre-departure guide for international students

6. Make the most of your experience!

This section is designed to get you thinking about how to make the most of your time in Canada. Understanding your Canadian university’s administrative processes will help you better organize your time abroad.

Also, setting goals and creating a checklist of things to keep in mind before, during and after your studies will help make your Canadian experience the most valuable investment possible.

Whether you are in Canada for six months on exchange or a full-time student starting a degree program, your time abroad is an excellent opportunity to advance your career and make valuable contacts. The information below is intended to help make your Canadian experience one of personal development and self-discovery.

6.1 Quick tips

  • Inform your educational institution if your address or contact information changes. You are responsible for receiving correspondence and important information, even when you are overseas.
  • If you intend to do partial studies in Canada, find out what you must do to facilitate your credit transfer upon your return. Inquire about transferring your credit well before departure as this can take considerable time. Always obtain written approval for the subjects you tend to take in Canada—do not assume you will receive automatic credit.
  • Order your own academic transcript from your Canadian educational institution when your studies are complete. One may also be sent to your home educational institution, but this can take time and may be too late if you are expecting to meet graduation or class registration requirements.
  • If you are expecting to graduate upon return to a home educational institution, find out when the last day is to resolve accreditation issues.
  • Do not assume that either educational institution is concentrating on your particular academic situation. It is your responsibility to fulfill any accreditation requirements.

6.2 Before you go

  • Think about your future: where do you want to be in a year? What steps can you take in Canada to get closer to this goal?
  • Establish goals: come up with some concrete personal and professional goals to accomplish while studying in Canada.
  • Check on scholarship opportunities with your home educational institution and other community-based organizations. You may be eligible for funding to assist with the costs of travel and living abroad.
  • Make practical preparations, such as ensuring that your passport and visa will not expire while you are in Canada.
  • Obtain any necessary medical/dental check-ups before you leave for Canada. If applicable, arrange for enough medication for your period abroad or take a letter from your doctor.
  • Keep a hard copy or electronic copy of any travel/medical insurance policies.
  • Devise a realistic budget, and plan to bring sufficient local currency on arrival in Canada for initial expenses.
  • Obtain an International Student Identity Card (ISIC). This is a universally recognized student status card and will entitle you to travel discounts.
  • Register with your country’s embassy when you arrive in Canada.

6.3 While in Canada

  • Arrive a few days before your student orientation so that you can familiarize yourself with your institution, accommodation and community.
  • Make contact with the international students’ office at your Canadian educational institution upon arrival. They will assist you with enrollment and orientation, and will provide a referral service for other essential needs.
  • Take part in your institution’s orientation program. This will be an invaluable experience for getting to know your destination and making new friends.
  • Familiarize yourself with your institution’s policies that relate to the submission of assessment work and exams. You may need to know about this sooner than you think. 
  • Keep a diary. Writing about your experiences and emotions can ease homesickness, help you to track progress on your goals, and remind you of your time abroad.
  • Network. Take part in social and academic opportunities that come your way.
  • Volunteer. Find an organization or cause that grabs your attention, and get involved. Your efforts will be appreciated and the experience will look great on your résumé.
  • Playing a sport or joining a team is a great way to meet new people and become part of the community. Also, ask your institution about its various clubs.
  • Adopt the right mindset
  • Arrive with an open mind.
  • Be willing to try new things, new foods and customs.
  • Remind yourself that differences are not bad.
  • Try to find similarities, not just differences, between your culture and the new one.

6.4 When you return

  • Visit your exchange international students’ office to resolve credit transfers and report on your experiences.
  • Become a buddy for other exchange students or volunteer at your institution’s international centre.
  • Incorporate your international experiences into your everyday and academic life.
  • Choose topics for class presentations, discussions and projects that draw on experiences and knowledge from your study abroad.
  • Join/start a returned exchange students’ association.
  • Keep in touch with your Canadian friends abroad!

Internationally recognized credentials take you far

The degree that I received in Canada has been highly regarded throughout my career. I acquired practical skills that were useful in the workplace, and colla borated with teams on solving real problems with actual companies. Professors would always provide examples of real-life situations in environments that most of us would eventually work in.

Sara Krikorian - UAE
University of Toronto: BA in Industrial Engineering with a Professional Experience Year program (2005)
Senior Industrial Engineer, Emirates Airline

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