Welcome Centre to ease international student transition

By Curtis Wolff

Incoming international students will have more help moving to Calgary this summer with the creation of the UCalgary Welcome Centre.

The centre — which opened July 2 on the fourth floor of the MacEwan Student Centre — will help students new to Calgary find off-campus accommodation, suitable roommates and culture-specific food options during their first few weeks in the city.

Welcome Centre program assistant Emily Coulter said that one obstacle incoming international students face is finding accommodation. The centre has made housing and roommate searches a main priority.

“The main thing we’re realizing is students are not coming and looking to be renting individually. They are looking for roommates, just for affordability reasons,” Coulter said.

Coulter said roommate matching comes down to identifying language barriers. She said the first step is identifying what language students like to speak at home and then matching them with a student who speaks the same language.

Once students have their accommodation settled, the Welcome Centre can help with packing lists and transportation from the airport to the university. Students can set up an appointment or drop in to meet the centre’s staff and get help with problems like grocery shopping and commuting.

“Food mapping was a huge identified need. Students were relating their happiness and success on campus to the availability of familiar and comfortable foods,” Coulter said. “Right now, we’re scouting out all the different restaurants, shops and markets around Calgary that cater to specific dietary needs or certain ethnic cuisines.”

The centre’s staff plan to take students into the city to help familiarize them with Calgary.

“We’re organizing actual transit orientation. [Our staff] are going to go out on the lines with the students and have a scavenger hunt or some sort of activity for that,” Coulter said. “We’re also going to have a lot of social programming, where we go out and introduce students to some of the cool restaurants in Calgary.”

The Centre will be open throughout the summer until Orientation Week. Once classes start, students can use existing international student services available at the Centre for International Students and Study abroad.

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