City of Mississauga rolls out welcome mat for international students

Rikon Yu, new computer science student from China
Monday, September 16, 2013 - 11:42am
Sharon Aschaiek

The Council Chamber of Mississauga, an impressive cylindrical room with a 23-meter high ceiling that’s considered a feat of post-modern architecture, is usually reserved for the important business of running the city. And last Friday afternoon, the doors to the government space in the Mississauga Civic Centre were opened to local post-secondary students from abroad as part of an exceptionally warm welcome to the city.

The International Student Welcome to Mississauga Event brought together more than 150 first-year foreign students from both the University of Toronto Mississauga and Sheridan College to introduce them to the wide range of local services, facilities and attractions. Hailing from about 40 countries from all around the world, including Asia, Africa, Europe, the Caribbean, South America, the Middle East and the United States, the students learned about the city’s history, development and opportunities, and the important role of international students in its growth.

“This event is a celebration of the great relationship that exists between the city, UTM and Sheridan,” said Professor Deep Saini, vice-president of U of T and principal of U of T Mississauga. “You are bringing your raw intellectual power to the city, which we are shaping to help you become the future movers and shakers of the world.”

Saini discussed the diverse makeup of UTM’s student population, 20 per cent of which is made up of international students. He also mentioned that while UTM students make up 28 per cent of the total number of U of T students, 38 per cent of all graduates go on to settle in Mississauga.

A native of India, Saini shared his own challenges as an international student completing graduate studies in Australia. “It’s not easy to be a in a completely foreign land, where the language is not your mother tongue and the culture is very different from what you know,” he said. “Tonight’s event is a noble gesture to help overcome the fears that international students face when they come here.”

International student welcome at the City of Mississauga Civic CentreThe event included a showing of a brief video about Mississauga that highlighted its bustling downtown core, extensive parks and woodlands, recreational activities and culturally diverse population. Led by Susan Amring, the city’s director of economic development, the event included remarks from Mayor Hazel McCallion, Sheridan College president and CEO Jeff Zabudsky and local cultural planner Mark Warrack.

“Your presence here enriches the university, college and community, and is so important to building knowledge of different parts of the world,” said Mayor McCallion.

Following the informational portion of the evening was a reception in the Civic Centre’s Great Hall, where students browsed exhibits sharing information on the city’s libraries, cultural attractions, bus systems and more. Capping off the evening was a walking tour of nearby works of art, and a free outdoor screening of the movie The Host at Mississauga Celebration Square.

Attendee Petra Araujo, a 20-year-old medical student from Brazil who will take molecular biology and other science courses at UTM, said she is looking forward to improving her English language skills, and to learning about the cultures of other students.

“I’m really interested to know about other cultures, and I think UTM is a perfect place for that. I’ve been here a week, and I’ve already met people from all over the world,” Araujo said.

Rikon Yu, 19, of China, said it was the high calibre of academics that drew him to UTM.

“I’m here because of the high quality of education,” said the computer science student. “I want to meet new people, getting involved in a new culture and learn new things.”