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A blue puffer jacket and orange toque, scarf and boots
 Welcome sign with snowThe UTSU is excited to be welcoming a new member to our UTSU family through the World University Service of Canada (WUSC) Student Refugee Program (SRP).  

The student is coming to Toronto in December from their asylum country Kenya. While we haven’t had a chance to talk to them yet, it’s a pretty solid chance they have never seen snow or visited a North American city! 

To help us get ready, to expect the unexpected and to do our best to support this student through such a massive life-changing experience, an incredible group of UTSU student staff who have lived through similar around-the-world moves (and the accompanying massive cultural adjustments) are sharing their experience, applying their empathy and flexing their organizational muscles! 

Here is some of the information they have on the go right now.

Aerial photo of U of T St George Campus that includes the lake and CN TowerQ: While the UTSU has partnered with New College and participated in the Student Refugee Program for 18 years, this will be the first student who arrives during a global pandemic. What is different?

A: Since the student will be in U of T’s quarantine program in a hotel for 14 days, we are finding alternatives to a lot of the resettlement supports that are typically done in person, like opening a bank account, showing them around Toronto and campus, and taking them shopping for clothes and other necessities. 

For the first two weeks we will be  meeting with the student via Zoom. We are trying to get creative by planning activities such as virtual tours, playing online games together, and doing online shopping.

After their quarantine period, they will move into New College residence and  will receive a meal plan. Food in Canada will be very different from what they are used to, but we are working hard towards getting things set up to fit their dietary requirements. 

A blue puffer jacket and orange toque, scarf and bootsQ: December is a cold month – how are we preparing for that? 

A: We will be purchasing some winter basics in advance to have on hand for the student upon arrival, but also will be taking them shopping in person or online if we are still in a lock down. We will be sharing information about winter, how to prepare for the cold and make the most out of the winter months! There are so many fun activities we can participate in once we are out of quarantine.

 During quarantine at the hotel, U of T’s nurses will be doing daily check-ins for the student.  We will also be providing a variety of emergency contact information to the student on the day they arrive. This will allow the student to get in touch with the right people if they have any symptoms of COVID-19 or the flu. 

Grad cap, diploma, booksQ: What about the second semester – is it hard for a student to start in January? 

A: It could be a challenge to begin classes in the winter semester as not all courses are offered and have available space. We don’t know what the student wants to study yet so our plan is to provide them with support when they arrive. 

We expect learning online may also be difficult, so we will provide them with academic support to help them succeed in their online learning and courses. Booking appointments with an academic advisor and with the faculty advisor to talk about their course selection is super important. Especially since their program application for major, minor or specialist will be complicated because they will only have one semester out of the two semesters to apply for these programs. The New College registrar will be on hand to assist in early January. 

It’s a lot to think about, but we’re so excited! These first few weeks of helping someone starting out in a new country is going to make our winter break even more meaningful. 

If you have questions or want to get involved, please contact srp@utsu.ca

Funded through student fees, UTSU’s Student Refugee Program supports refugee students from their first day all the way to graduation by providing social, academic and financial support to create opportunities for students to learn, connect and gain access to many different resources on and off-campus. 

Through this program, the UTSU works with refugee students to help make their stories visible allowing other students to learn about refugee experiences. UTSU also helps to raise awareness on campus through a variety of outreach and engagement activities helping bring the  U of T community together in support of the common pursuit of equal access to higher education.

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