Defying culture shock

International students face the challenge of attending school in Canada


At some point in our lives, we’ll all be wanderers, nomads, or new people. For some of us, it happens to be when we’re fresh out of high school and embarking on a journey to a new place for higher education. And sometimes, in our intricate plan for attacking university, we forget that adaptation isn’t easy. That’s where UTM’s homely atmosphere comes into play, by allowing people with all kinds of lifestyles, aspirations, fears, dreams, and goals to feel welcome.

One would think that moving to a beautiful country like Canada, where the grass is green and birds are chirping, would be smooth sailing. However, the culture shock, the change in lifestyle, not to mention the amount of work facing a new university student, and the country itself can be quite overwhelming. It’s quite likely to be a vortex of change and fear for a student coming from a small country with a different culture and probably a different lifestyle. Sometimes, it can be difficult for a student to accept this change and adapt to its boundaries.

UTM is home to people of so many different backgrounds from all around the globe that, ironically, among all the diversity, you’re likely to eventually find people with similar interests who can understand your story.

But being part of a varied community isn’t always enough to erase the fears that international students sometimes have. One resource is UTM’s International Centre, which offers cultural transition support, language training, and information to ease the process of settling in on campus. From personal experience (I’m Indian but spent all my life in Qatar), I can say that their support is key.

Understandably, this transition can take time because, let’s be honest, maybe five out of 100 people will find a really good friend who they instantly click with on their first day of university. Although this route isn’t for everyone, joining clubs and attending events can certainly facilitate finding and forming ties that bind, and UTM is quite strong on that count. UTM might be notorious for being in the middle of nowhere, but how many places in the world have a quidditch team?

The campus also offers introductory programs like rezOne and utmOne, which not every university does. The frequent (but under-attended) events and the work opportunities in the form of Work-Study, volunteering, and part-time jobs are much more than what I found was offered in Qatar.

In addition to all of these things, UTM has the activity and constant “on the move” feel, which is an important part of a healthy university experience. I felt so much more energized and active after I started living on this campus, because back home I would barely walk out to do anything—there wasn’t much to do.

This is why as an international student, I think that though the transition from a different place is hard, the effort to push through that barrier will definitely bear sweet results.