How to Handle Change: An International Student’s Guide to Navigating SFU

How to Handle Change: An International Student’s Guide to Navigating SFU

By: Yasmim
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Even though I’d left my home country of Brazil at age 15, moving to Canada for university wasn’t easy. I remember being in orientation and overhearing friends making class plans, talking about commuting together, and bonding over a Canadian high-school experience I had never had. It was daunting to realize that although there was no language barrier, cultural differences still separated me from the majority. Nevertheless, I would not give up on making Canada my home, and neither should you! Below are some tips on how to ease international students’ transition to Canada through SFU’s services. Realizing moving away is hard is the first step, now all you need to do is to reach out to these great services! 

Join a club

Enrolling in a club is easy. All you need to do is sign up on the SFSS website and you’ll automatically get emails from the club. If you prefer a face-to-face interaction, you can also meet club representatives at Clubs Days at the beginning of each term. The complete list of clubs registered to SFU can be found at

Reach out to International Services for Students

Moving away is difficult for everyone, hence SFU has services specific to those in that situation. The International Services for Students is a must-know for all international students, whether for a term or a degree. I made the mistake of reaching out to International Services only when I absolutely needed it. So, in order to avoid the stress I went through, I recommend taking a look at the International School Advising and Programs website from the moment you land in Canada. It not only provides logistical information on moving to Canada, such as the necessary documentation you’ll need, but also gives tips on finding housing and planning finances. SFU’S International Services for Students also hosts workshops and events to accommodate the needs of foreign students, both on exchange and full-time.
My favourite resource of all is the International Mentorship Program. Here, a current SFU student volunteer is paired with an incoming international student. When I first joined SFU, my mentor not only answered the million questions I had, but also gave me peer-to-peer advice on what courses to take, how to get involved and best places to visit in Vancouver!
A final resource from the International Services for Students is the Global Student Centre. The centre is open to all students, and offers a safe space with a kitchen area and comfy chairs to chill in between classes. They also host many events focusing on the international student community.

Talk to an SFU counselor 

Being away from friends and family can take a toll on our emotional health – especially in a different country. SFU provides counseling services free of charge whose sole job is to help students navigate university. Talking to a professional will alleviate the pressure on your peers who may also be feeling overwhelmed. Whether you are feeling overwhelmed with your classes, your personal life, or are simply missing home, SFU’s counselors are prepared to listen to your concerns and to suggest resources within the school and beyond. If you feel uncomfortable talking to a counsellor, there are other groups around campus that provide emotional support such as the Women’s CentreOut on Campus and SFPIRG. Either way, talking to someone can be good to both de-stress and to learn about other opportunities and resources that will ease your transition. 


Finally, don't worry! Even though it may feel impossible at times, you will soon become acquainted with your new surroundings. Adapting to a new environment is hard on everyone, especially when you add school, making friends, and cultural differences onto your plate. SFU provides these different services in order to facilitate your transition to Canada; don’t hesitate to take advantage of them. It’s also important to know that reaching out for help is not a defeat, but a victory in taking care of yourself! 

Yasmim Botelho Canabrava is a second year student majoring in Communication and minoring in Gender Sexuality and Women’s Studies. Originally from Brazil, Yasmim is also very interested in Latin American culture and pretends to speak Spanish because it is (sort of) similar to her native tongue, Portuguese. She hopes to one day actually learn Spanish. At one point in her life Yasmim could recite the entirety of Pulp Fiction.

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Posted on April 07, 2017