University of Toronto:
Orientation for New Students

In Canada, the number of international students is on the rise. In the year 2009, 50 % of all Canadian students were born outside Canada or are second generation Canadians.

Orientation for New Students

The University of Toronto focuses actively on orientation. The university arranges a three-day, campus-wide orientation for all students, including foreign students. In addition, a one-day orientation event is aimed specifically for international students. The purpose of the one-day orientation event is to make students feel welcomed and included in life on campus and the Canadian society.

The program includes activities such as: a free breakfast, a series of ice-breakers by senior international students, a free lunch, presentations on important topics such as permit and immigration laws and services for international students, and campus activities (students can try out different games and hobbies).
In addition to the orientation days, the mentoring program is introduced.

Mentoring for New Students

The mentoring program for international students is based on a peer model and simultaneously provides a volunteer work opportunity for students.

The mentoring program is based on a pyramid model, where the International Students Coordinator trains senior mentors and the senior mentors train junior mentors. The Mentoring Program Coordinator’s position is an excellent example of an on-campus job opportunity for a student, and it is a paid position. The Coordinator trains 5–10 senior mentors (government-funded positions) who are responsible for training the 250 other senior and junior volunteers. Mandatory training sessions for mentors deal with topics such as cross-cultural communication, leadership, peer support, and teamwork. The mentoring program is supervised by the International Students Coordinator and the Director of Student Life.

Volunteering mentors include both Canadian and international students. Mentor volunteering programs include: orientation/reception services, banking, shopping, opening a telecommunication line, checking the immigration papers of the students, trying out the public transportation etc. Mentor volunteers are available for new students for one hour/day. The mentors and the mentees are required to communicate with each other for 4–6 hours per month, and mentors submit regular progress reports. The program is important for the mentors, because they gain 6 months to a year of experience and receive useful references for their future career.

The mentors organize cultural/social events for students and function as program instructors in the English Conversation Program. The purpose of the Conversation Program is to support and encourage international students as they learn the language in a highly informal context. Some retired professors have been motivated to teach the language to new students. The language program also includes cycling trips and the learning of phrases, idioms, and small talk in a relaxed atmosphere.

Benefits of the mentoring program for students:

  • Great opportunity for “senior” international students to gain Canadian work experience. This program is important for the mentors, because they gain 6 months to a year of work experience and receive useful references for their future career.
  • Mentor training, which is mandatory for mentors, includes topics such as cross-cultural communication, leadership, peer support, and teamwork.
  • New students receive constant support during the first year and become part of the campus community.