© Guardian photo by Heather Taweel
Akanksha Drotch, left, and Lisa Omore paint welcome signs as part of UPEI’s international student welcome day Friday.
Making the move to university can be tough and it’s even more so when that school isn’t in your home country.
That’s why UPEI held a welcome day for its international students Friday to help them with the transition into university life in Prince Edward Island.
Lisa Omore, who is from Kenya, was one of those students and said the welcome session was helpful because she had never been to Canada before and didn’t know much about it.
“So it’s been helpful to see where I will be studying for the next four years, the environment and all the things I can get out of here,” she said.
During Friday’s welcome session 70 students from about 25 countries got to tour the campus and learned about some of the services available on campus. Those included academic counseling, academic advising and a mentoring program that matches them with returning students.
They also had a tour of Charlottetown planned and took part in a video project that will later be used for recruiting.
It was all done in advance of today’s welcome day for the rest of the students as the university gets ready for the first day of classes Wednesday.
Although she hadn’t visited P.E.I. before, Omore said her father had 17 years ago and her parents wanted her to attend UPEI.
“They thought it would be nice if I was in a small place where I could get everything easily and get to know lots of people,” she said.
Omore didn’t have much time in P.E.I. before the welcome sessions since she only landed in the province about 18 hours earlier and everything was still new to her Friday.
She said she had a few concerns before coming to Canada, including about what the weather would be like since she came from a country where the temperatures are warm almost year-round.
Omore said she also worried about getting lost, but found it wasn’t hard to find her way around.
One thing she hadn’t worried about was meeting new people.
“I’m on a mission to know everybody here,” she said.
Erica Stanley, UPEI’s international student advisor, said the school holds a welcome day every year in the fall and in January, but this year’s was shorter because of budget restraints and a movement toward giving them the same treatment as other students.
That meant the organizers tried to summarize as much information as they could and planned to spread out the rest over the coming weeks, she said.
Stanley said the students came from academic systems, cultures, geographies and climates that were very different, but there also may be language barriers.
“We need to slow everything down to make sure that everyone’s getting what they need,” she said.
Akanksha Drotch, who came to the province from India, also attended the welcome sessions, but was more familiar with P.E.I. and the university since her father has been working as a UPEI professor for almost a year.
For her, she said it felt really good to attend the sessions because it made her feel at home and showed there were a lot of people who could help her if she needed it.
“You don’t feel alone,” she said.