For international students, moving to a new country is both exciting and scary. As a second year international student myself, I wish someone would have shared the tips below with me when I started the program to help with the transition from my life in Ghana to living and studying in Edmonton. Like many other international students, after going through the initial excitement of being somewhere new, I experienced a bit of culture shock. I have since adjusted to life in Canada, and hope that by sharing my tips below, your transition can be a bit easier and will help you in making the most of your time in Edmonton and the U of A!
- Attend Orientation and Say Hello to a New Person Everyday
Orientation is the start of a new school year as well as the start of a new chapter in your career and life. You will be working closely with your MBA classmates for the next year or two so why not start making friends now? Creating bonds and friendships early on will make your life easier during the semester. Try to say hello to at least one new person every day and watch as your network grows. Also, orientation may seem long, but the information shared is extremely valuable. You will learn about student clubs and committees that you can join (which I would encourage you to do!). You will also be introduced to the amazing staff and faculty, so make sure you take the time to say hello!
- Get a Canadian ID Card and SIN (Social Insurance Number)
During your stay in Canada you may need an ID to prove your identity and/or age. Some of the occasions when you might need to do this include: signing up for a phone plan, opening a bank account, applying for a visa card, and going into an establishment that serves alcohol. Carrying your passport around is not advisable as the risk of losing it is high. Fortunately, Alberta has a photo ID card that you can apply for. Visit http://www.servicealberta.ca/1048.cfm to learn more about how to get one.
Also, if you plan on applying for an internship or working during your time in Edmonton, you will be required to get a Social Insurance Number (SIN). You can get a SIN at Canada Place in downtown Edmonton. For more information about what a SIN is and where you can apply for it can be found through the following link: http://www.albertacanada.com/opportunity/working/jobs-social-insurance-number.aspx. Having a SIN will also make the process of buying a phone plan much easier if you have not opened a bank account yet!
It is advisable to get these two cards within the first few months of your arrival in Edmonton as you will need them somewhere along the line.
- Buy Good Quality Winter Attire
Canadian winters are pretty cold and you will need good winter clothing in order to stay dry and warm. Invest in a pair of sturdy shoes with good grip as well as a winter jacket, gloves, hats and socks. The initial costs may be high, but trust me it will be worth it when the temperature drops below -20 Celsius! Some of the best brands for jackets a Canada Goose, Columbia, Pajar, Aritzia, Patagonia and North Face. Hint: for affordable jackets, the Bay (department store) usually has a winter jacket sale late October and NovemberJ. This article summarizes it nicely: http://gocanada.about.com/od/quebeccity/a/dress_carnival.htm .
- Introduce Yourself to Classmates or People You Meet in Your Residence
The best part of moving to a new country is getting to meet new people! Invite your classmates for coffee or tea and get to know them. Then you can invite them for a potluck – everybody bonds well through food right?! The people you meet in the program will take your experience to a whole new level and will make your time in Edmonton much more enjoyable. Alternatively, make it a point to go for social events planned by the school or classmates (you will get bored if you stay cooped up in your room).
- Find New Hobbies and Have Fun
There are many new things you can try while in Edmonton and I am sure you will find some new hobbies to keep you happy. For climbing enthusiasts, the University of Alberta has the brand new Wilson Climbing Centre as well as many fun classes such as Zumba and martial arts offered by the Faculty of Physical Education and Recreation. Drop in or sign up for a class and have some fun!
Finally, spread your wings and explore beyond the city of Edmonton. Alberta is a beautiful province, and Edmonton is close to beautiful locations such as Jasper, Lake Louise and Banff. Rent a car or catch a ride with a friend and have fun exploring. Information on the Canadian Rockies can be found here: https://www.travelalberta.com/ca/places-to-go/canadian-rockies/. Getting lost is always the start of a great adventure!
Written by Hicki Braimah