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Warm winter welcome

[Olumide Bolu]
Olumide Bolu, international student advisor with the Queen’s University International Centre (QUIC), answers a question during an orientation session for newly-arrived exchange students. (Photo by Garrett Elliott)

Consider it a Queen’s winter ritual: Exchange students from around the world arrive on campus in the dead of winter and try to settle in to a new university and a new home.

Making the transition can be exciting for students. Add in the biting cold of January, and all that a different culture can bring, and the transition can feel more like a challenge.

Fortunately, at Queen’s the new arrivals have a number of resources they can call on, with the Queen’s University International Centre (QUIC) taking the lead.

The majority of exchange students arrive the week before classes begin and this is the time for them to explore and learn about Queen’s, Kingston and Canada.

One of the people providing a helping hand is Olumide Bolu, an international student advisor at QUIC. He knows what the students are going through. Arriving in Canada from Nigeria in 2003, he made the transition himself and now helps prepare and guide international students at Queen’s.

Some of the challenges are still the same he says – dealing with the cold, travel documentation and health care – but there are others he doesn’t always anticipate as the role is “always evolving.” 

“When you look at the different groups of international students, they have different needs. Exchange students are typically here for one semester so it’s critical that they transition quickly and have a good experience in Canada,” Mr. Bolu says, adding that while international students pursuing a degree are at Queen’s longer, they also have more invested in being here. “So transitioning is key for all these categories of students and what we do here at QUIC is helping them transition successfully.”

While the resources at QUIC and its campus partners are available throughout the year, the first week is key to building a solid foundation. QUIC offers a number of workshops such as “Learning to Love Winter” and orientation sessions are held as well. 

The success of an exchange, of course, isn’t just about the classroom. But again there is support available to help foster new relationships with the university and with fellow students.

“One major concern international students have, including me (when I was a student), is the ability to make friends,” Mr. Bolu says. “It can be very difficult, so a lot of programming at QUIC is designed around social networking.”

To help make students make connections QUIC hosts events such as a games night, a movie night and trips to gain a more Canadian experience.

For a full schedule of events and more information, visit the QUIC website.