As an exchange student, in a new place and alone, the campus resources are some of the most useful and accessible resources you will find. On my NSE campus, one of the resources I found very useful is the Student Union. One part of it is the SU (Student Union) Clubs center. Trying to meet new people with similar interests is always easier when you join or even just looking into clubs that you interest you. When I first got here I spent hours online looking through the long list of clubs and attended clubs week on campus where I could talk to people in person about what their clubs are really about. But the center itself, located in the main floor of the student center, is a place where you can not only go to relax and do homework but also where you can ask about joining/creating/asking questions about clubs. It is very useful and most of the people there are friendly and have experiences with clubs themselves.
The student union itself is an amazing resource for students that includes programs like Safewalk, where you can get an escort anywhere on campus, and the good food box, which purchases fresh produce which is bundled and sent to depots around the city. They can also provide tutors, lockers, and help students find off-campus housing. Their offices are also located on the main floor of our student center, making it an easy place to drop in when you need help or a safe place to go. The Q Center inside the offices is considered a safe, comfortable place for the LGBTQ+ community on campus. The Q Center also includes the student ombudsman, which deals with helping solve interpersonal conflicts or nonacademic concerns, and the women’s resource center, that advocated for women’s equality. One of the student union’s biggest and most known contributions to the campus is it’s scholarships, mentoring programs, and events to provide support and resources for the community.
Another huge resource, that you will interact with a lot when participating in an exchange program in Canada is International Student Services. They can help you with anything from getting around the area and cell phone plans to doing taxes in Canada and finding medical insurance. I have dealt with this center on many occasions and they are always welcome to help with any problem, big or small. They also host events throughout the school year to meet other internationals such as information sessions, conversation cafes, and peer listening. Yet they also host bigger events such as a day in Lake Louise, snow tubing at Winsport, and rock climbing in the city. Events through International Student Services is where I met some of my closest friends on campus and it helped me branch out during my time at University. I have learned about so many different countries and cultures through the program, and the students working there have almost all been abroad and know what it’s like to be home sick. So while the events are amazing, they provide a lot of support through personal connections as well.
Lastly, probably the most important resource is the Student Wellness Center which includes medical services, mental health services, and drop in spaces and programs. My friends and I have used the medical services for things like birth control, flu shots, and general check ups. I personally have also looked into the counselling resources since I personally deal with anxiety. They have amazing services and the school itself provides medical and dental coverage that help cut the cost of fees for students, especially those who don’t qualify for the Alberta Health Care. They have guides on drug safety, human sexuality, and alcohol support systems on their website and information at the center itself both in the form of pamphlets and one on one meetings. They hold events, just like some of the other resources on campus, open to the public involving the mental health aspect of their services. They have events on self discovery, mindfulness, anxiety, stress management, friendship, and more. When signing up for these programs you have the opportunity to let the instructor know anything you please, whether that be triggers or mental health problems you have/are currently dealing with, to better your experience.
While some resources may not be used on a daily basis, all of them are important and can improve your experience while abroad. They improved mine tenfold, and I would recommend anyone going on exchange to look into and seek out all the resources their campus has to offer. Going abroad on exchange can make some people feel lonely or homesick, but with the help of the resources at your fingertips it doesn’t have to stay that way.
Submitted by Caleigh Nordan