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From Gujarat, India to Saskatoon Saskatchewan, undergraduate biology student Doreen Patel describes three ways to help adjust to life and university in Canada. (Submitted photo)

Three tips on how to thrive as an international student at USask

In this blog, first-year undergraduate biology student Doreen Patel gives some advice on how to thrive as an international student


By Doreen Patel

I was born and brought up in Gujarat, India and I've been in Canada for five to six months now. It's been a fantastic journey filled with many highs and lows (more lows, to be honest 😉).  India is a hot country where the temperature goes till +45 degree Celsius. So coming to Saskatoon, experiencing and adjusting to the extreme cold weather was difficult, and the challenges that arise when moving to a new country was the cherry on top. Although the transition from high school to university, and arriving in a foreign country where you don't know anyone can be difficult, you eventually get used to it.

Here are a few tips that helped me adjust to life and university in Canada. 

1. Set up a support system

To adapt to a new environment and culture, I had to push myself beyond my comfort zone every day. It was difficult to balance my studies, 20 to 25 hours of work each week, household duties, laundry, grocery shopping, and other responsibilities. 

At one point, I began to feel burnt out and lonely and began considering returning home. However, despite the more than 11 and-a-half hour time difference, my parents always made sure to contact me twice a day and kept in touch with me, which helped me feel less alone. 

My mother sent me Instagram reels for cooking tips so I could make my lunch or dinner quickly and with minimal planning. Every time I wait for my bus, I call my dad and tell him about my day and show him around. One of the reasons I chose to stay in USask and not return home is the fact that my parents have given me a lot of support ever since I came here. There were times when I couldn’t reach out to my parents since they were busy. I then turned to my best friends, and they would listen to me and always tried to be there for me via FaceTime or messages.

Even if you tend to be an introvert, you still need some company when you're by yourself in a foreign country to avoid feeling isolated. For a while, you may get by just fine on your own, but eventually, homesickness sets in, and you begin to miss your family and friends back home. I'm pleased I took part in several activities and tried to interact with people from my culture as well as from other cultures since they helped me feel at home in this new environment.

2. Break up studying into manageable time periods

I keep things under control by studying every day so that nothing gets built up right before an exam. It may sound tedious and time-consuming to study every day, but if you review what you learn the same day and take notes, you will find that studying for midterms and finals is simple because you will always have a summary of all the content with you. 

Also, breaking up your projects into manageable portions is preferable over answering all 20 to 30 questions at once. Every Monday is the deadline for my tasks, so I aim to do five to six questions each day, which takes me no more than an hour. So, I can enjoy my weekends with my friends and work too and I don’t have to worry about deadlines.

3. Make time for your passions, hobbies and have fun!

In addition to work and school, I believe that engaging in extracurricular activities—or doing something to distract yourself from your busy schedule—increases productivity. Examples of such hobbies include reading books, joining clubs, etc.

For example, I am the director of communication and an executive member of the Gujarati Students' Association (GSA). Applying for this role was a good choice because it allowed me to gain new skills and make friends through GSA club events and activities.

I also participate in competitive basketball matches arranged by Campus Recreation, a club that also plans both competitive and recreational matches for several sports. Basketball is my passion and hobby; therefore, I always feel motivated after playing, which helps me be more productive.

My parents gave me a piece of advice that I’d like to share, which rings true to me. “It can be difficult to overcome obstacles and adapt, but rather than doubting the thought of giving up, one should have a strong personality, be adaptable, and be prepared to handle any obstacles that arise.”

Doreen Patel is a first-year undergraduate biology student, a Student Recruitment Ambassador (SRA) in the College of Arts and Science, and Director of Communication of Gujarati Students’ Association.

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