The culture shock of coming to Canada can be a discomforting thing. Our countrys cold winters, vast bureaucracy and a government wandering between American and British-style politics take some getting used to. The feelings of isolation dont help either; my mother, as a sixteen year-old immigrant, recalls a feeling of separation from her home and the disconnection with a new country where she only knew how to say please and thank you.
U of T, being composed of some pretty smart people, realized these problems a long time ago, and formed the International Student Centre to assist both new immigrants and international students who come to Canada to receive a U of T education. Three years ago, the International Student Centre extended its reach beyond its base of operations in Cumberland House downtown, and established itself at UTM to bring their services closer to the students who need it.
The UTM International Student Resource Centre operates out of the second floor of the South Building. Its mission is to provide information to international students on topics such as work visas, health care and immigration issues. The Student Affairs Department funds the ISRC, and although the ISRC is a separate entity, the it works closely with its St. George counterpart.
The ISRCs presence is critical to a significant minority of UTM students. Ten percent of UTM students are international, says Veronica Vasquez, and that doesnt include recent immigrants. Although new citizens or permanent residents may not have to worry about UHIP cards or work visas, they still have to deal with the same issues in terms of adjusting to both university life and a foreign country.
Not enough people seem to realize the benefits of the centre. Some international students even go without collecting their UHIP cards, leaving them completely unprotected in medical cases. Vasquez hopes to change this in the future by letting people know that the ISRC is a service centre meant to help students, not a club.
The ISRC, along with its information sessions, also provides social programs. This year, the ISRC has organized social programs such as Lets Talk Turkey (the bird, not the country) for Thanksgiving, a peer-to-peer English language instruction and a series of biweekly Global Café meetings. The next Global Café will discuss acquiring job experience in Canada, and will take place on November 10 at 4:30 p.m. in the South Buildings Fireplace Lounge.
The ISRC also organizes a buddy program, where a first-year international student is paired with an older student to help the first-years become acclimatized to UTM. Vasquez also hopes to organize tax clinics and work permit workshops next semester.
More information on the ISRC can be found at their office, or on the ISRC website.