Laurier’s International Office works to foster the success of international students

Photo by Qiao Liu

Wilfrid Laurier University’s International Office continues their efforts to aid the success of international students within the Laurier community.

With a rising number of international students, Laurier’s International Office has taken measures to ensure that all students are properly welcomed and transitioned into the Laurier community.

This year, Laurier is looking to focus on more mental health support for international students. In addition to programs already in place, the International Office will be running a pilot project this year called Keep.Me SAFE by guard.me, an international insurance provider.

The Keep.Me SAFE program is an online multi-cultural counselling service where international students can request services in their language and speak with a certified counsellor regarding their mental health and other concerns.

The counselling service will also work with Laurier Special Constables in order to provide further support for students if needed. The Keep.Me SAFE program will be launched sometime in the next month.

For new Laurier students, the process of welcoming begins even before students reach the campus. One of the steps in place is the peer mentor program.

Laurier’s peer mentor program connects incoming Laurier students with an international student leader. This relationship provides incoming students with an upper-year student to speak with in regards to worries or help needed from the time of the application process and all throughout their first year.

The peer mentor program also holds events throughout the year to keep students engaged. Popular events include the Coffee Club where students are invited to discuss topics pertaining to Canadian culture or other concerns they may have.

“It’s not only about getting the international student to change to the Canadian ways because then we’re minimizing the impact that an international student can have on us. It’s about opening ourselves up more to those different ways, if we don’t open it up, than we lose that different perspective [sic].”

“[The Coffee Club] is student led, and it’s a safe space where students can ask questions,” Peter Donahue, associate director of Laurier International Student Support said.

Along with orientation week planned by the Students’ Union, international students take part in a three-day international orientation.

“We start off with building a community amongst the international students so they know each other before O-week begins,” Donahue said.

During this time Laurier assists students with immigration, safety, health, insurance and other essentials in addition to building relationships.

The International Office utilizes school breaks such as reading week to introduce students to Canadian holidays for those who do not travel during this time. Every year the office holds a Christmas dinner with a turkey and other traditional festivities. Those who do not attend likely spend the time off travelling other parts of Canada they would like to see — Laurier helps to accommodate this.

The International Office also works to prepare students and teach them what will be expected while studying in Canada.

“We try to help the students use the knowledge they already have, using their strengths and skills that apply to life in Canada,” Donahue said.

Programs such as first language tutoring, which teaches students concepts from class in their own language, are ways Laurier attempts to achieve this.

Laurier International emphasizes that students’ differences are a strength and an asset to Canadian students at Laurier.

“It’s not only about getting the international student to change to the Canadian ways because then we’re minimizing the impact that an international student can have on us,” Donahue said.

It’s about opening ourselves up more to those different ways, if we don’t open it up, than we lose that different perspective [sic].”

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