6 Things Every International Student Should Know in Their First Semester
Keep your nerves calm and get ready for an incredible term studying at a Canadian university!
Written by Faheel, a mechanical engineering student at Toronto Metropolitan University. He's originally from Pakistan, and his favourite spot in Toronto is the Harbourfront!
September is in full swing and the fall term is here! You've embarked on a new chapter, whether you're on campus or studying remotely as you wait to arrive in Canada. You're probably stressed yet excited, but don't worry — I'm here to calm your nerves and share advice for making the most of your first semester at Toronto Metropolitan University this fall.
1. Learn to cook
If you're anything like me, you probably hate cooking. When I first moved to Toronto I didn't like to cook, but also, I didn't know how. With time, I learned new recipes and surprisingly, I started to enjoy it! I'd put on some music or play a show on Netflix and cook easy meals to get me through the week. I also don't have to spend money on takeout as much because I have food at home: a win-win situation.
Pro-tip: Check out TMU's affordable five- or seven-day meal plans.
2. Learn to budget
It's no secret that Toronto is an expensive city — especially when you're living in the heart of it! From sushi and shawarma to tacos and biryani, the food options are endless, and the entire world's cuisine is minutes away from you!
There are also a number of on-campus food options available: Starbucks in the SLC, Tim Horton's by the Victoria Building, Oakham Lounge (order the Student Loan Special) and the many eateries around campus.
You're bound to spend money once in a while when you're on campus. One thing that can help you curb your expenses is learning how to budget! Create a weekly budget, and most importantly, don't exceed it.
3. Use academic supports
Transitioning from high school to university can be difficult, especially when you may be coming from an entirely different education system. Make sure you utilize the numerous academic resources offered by TMU.
The SLC offers math and writing supports so you can book one-on-one tutoring sessions. Similarly, each faculty has its own academic support services — for example, the First Year Engineering Office hosts Study Halls before exams — and lastly, professors host office hours where you can get your questions answered one-on-one.
4. Explore and travel
Fall in Canada is absolutely beautiful and is my favourite season here! The city is full of colourful trees, the sky is always blue, and the weather is perfect. Take time to travel and look around, whether with friends or on your own.
Go for a run across the Toronto Waterfront on the Martin Goodman Trail, a picnic at Riverdale Park with gorgeous views of the city, Woodbine Beach for a beach day, Canada's Wonderland for a thrilling ride, or Morningside Park to hike. The options are endless. When I first arrived in Toronto, I explored downtown on bikes with my friend. Together, we saved on transport costs and got lots of exercise!
5. Stay healthy
University life gets very busy, very fast. With work, assignments, exams, quizzes, and labs, sometimes you forget to take care of yourself and for most of us, our parents and support systems aren't as close by to make sure we're eating regularly and have a healthy diet.
Luckily, as students we have access to two huge gyms: the Recreation and Athletic Centre and the Mattamy Athletic Centre. You can take Zumba or Yoga classes, participate in recreational sports, or just exercise on your own — there are numerous ways to get your dose of serotonin, so make sure to take advantage of our on-campus facilities!
We also offer free counselling sessions through the Medical Centre. Medical consultations are covered by your UHIP health insurance and prescription drugs are partly covered by your TMUSU Health and Dental Plan. If you need accommodations for a visible or non-visible disability, you can request for academic accommodations through the Academic Accommodations Office at the SLC.
A lot of international students are shy at first, and understandably so. You're in a new country and are immersed in a new environment, but don't let yourself get overwhelmed. Canadians live up to their reputation of being kind and caring people!
Plus, our campus has a diverse community with people from all backgrounds. Everyone, whether domestic or international, is nervous and looking to make friends, so attend social events, talk to people in class, and don't forget to participate in class discussions!
Get more advice on the international student blog