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Packing For Your Trip: International Students

August 17, 2018 - 10:10

It’s less than two weeks until you arrive on campus!! We are looking forward to meeting you and welcoming you to the StFX campus.

The process of moving from one country to another can be one of the most stressful and yet exciting times ever. As we get closer to the start of school, what to pack and what to leave behind will be at the top of your priority list. As an International student, the luxury of having your parents drive you to school with every single item that you want is exactly that – a luxury not many get to have. The reality is, if you are flying, you will likely only be allowed to travel with two large suitcases and one hand-held piece of luggage. This means that you will have to be efficient and strategic in your packing, and here are a few tips for achieving that!

First, here is a list of important documents you should make sure to pack for your trip and which may need to be presented at Immigration:

  • Valid Passport with entry permission documents (Student visa)
  • Study Permit. Bring the letter from the Canadian Embassy if applicable
  • Original letter of acceptance from St Francis Xavier University
  • Evidence of financial support to prove you have enough funds to cover your tuition and living expenses (bank statements, tuition payment receipts, etc.)
  • Original transcripts or school certificates
  • Medical and immunization records if possible (copies)
  • Driver’s license or International Driver’s License (if you have one)
  • Prescription, doctor’s instructions or medicine with English translation if necessary
  1. Be patient and pack well in advance to ensure you are ready and have everything you need prior to your departure. It is a good idea to take photos of your documents and email them to yourself and/or make photocopies and leave them at home or with a family member. Should you lose your documents, replacing them would be much easier.
  2. Do not place anything of value in your checked luggage. Instead, keep it close-by and carry it with you at all times  (items such as money, jewelry, medication, and your passport should be in your hand luggage).
  3. The weather in Antigonish ranges from near-tropical summers of 28 degrees, to very cold winters as low as -15 degrees. You may need different kinds of clothing to stay comfortable all year round. It is very important that you wear clothing that is appropriate for the weather, especially in winter. Refer to our post on surviving winter as an international student for more tips! Some items you may prefer to purchase upon arrival in Canada due to size and weight:
    • Pillows, bedding, towels, etc.
    • Personal hygiene items
    • Clothing for Canadian weather such as coats and boots, rainwear and umbrella, hat, scarf, gloves
    • Phones and laptops
    • Adaptors and other electronic gadgets (note that voltage in Canada is 110 volts, 60Hz)
  4. Make sure to pack photo albums of your family and friends, along with any other memorabilia that will comfort you when you are feeling lonely or homesick. If the music from your country or church cannot easily be found on YouTube, bring a CD or external hard drive with you that you can play at any time.
  5. Bring clothing that reflects your culture and background. These will be useful for international events which involve wearing cultural dress to show off and celebrate your nationality. Additionally, bring your flag. You can put this up for display in your room and talk about it with your Canadian and other international friends!
  6. If you enjoy cooking (and even if you don’t), pack some spices and non-perishable food items from home. In my first year of university I did not return home for two years and always craved my country’s food, so being able to cook with some things from home really helped me out. Make sure to declare these items at the airport so that they will not be confiscated (as long as you don’t bring any fresh vegetables or meat, you should be fine).

I hope you find this post helpful! If you have any questions or comments, don’t hesitate to let us know below in the comments section or leave your name and email on the Contact page to get in touch with us. See you soon Internationals!

The Do’s and Dont’s of Getting a Part-Time Student Job

July 16, 2018 - 10:13

When you come to university, you will quickly realize that it’s so easy to spend more than you actually have, and, worse off, your parents get tired of sponsoring your crazy spending habits. Basically, you will NEED money. Welcome to the student life.

I currently work two campus jobs as a full-time student, so here are some of my Do’s and Dont’s for getting a part time job!

Do

Volunteer. “But aren’t we talking about paid jobs??” you may ask. Volunteering on or off-campus has so many benefits to it. Not only are you gaining transferable skills that you can put on your resume (employers like to see that you are committed to your community and aren’t just in it for a cheque), but volunteering is part of building up your network! I volunteered for an organization on campus last semester that later offered me a summer position paying $15/hour at the end of the term. Opportunities are created through volunteering, so while I understand that some people can’t afford to work if they aren’t getting paid for it, if you are able, volunteering is important to build necessary connections and skills that will become useful later in life.

Don’t

Overload. I mentioned that I worked two jobs last year, but did I mention that I was also part of the Student’s Union and volunteering at the same time? In turn, my studies suffered a little and I was unable to fully commit myself to any of the activities I was doing – I was spreading myself too thin. It’s easy to see how this workload was not healthy, even for any student with the best time-management skills! If you find that you are taking on too many things at once, it would be good to take a step back and think about what you may have to cut from your schedule and what takes priority. As a student, remember that your schoolwork comes first. Try to come up with a better strategy that will allow each of your commitments to flourish!

Do

Apply for things you’re interested in. There’s nothing worse than being a student, going to class, and then having to go to a job you hate in your free time. We’re too young to be dreading going to work, so make sure the part-time job you apply for is worth it and brings you (some) joy! Try to figure out what interests you most and find opportunities that are in line with that. This way, you’ll be more excited and energized when you leave class and have to go to work, rather than feeling drained and annoyed. The Career Centre is a great resource for finding jobs both on and off-campus, and they can be found in Schwartz 194.

Don’t

Neglect your studies. It can be tempting to sacrifice two hours of studying for two hours of work and getting paid, but, if this happens repeatedly, your grades could tank! Remember, you are a student first, and any other commitments should ideally come second to this. While employers care that you are a well-rounded student who gets involved with the community, they also care about your grades. Again, if work is getting in the way of your academic success, you will need to create a strategy that will allow you to balance your time effectively. The Student Success Centre can help you to do this. They are located in the Angus McDonald Library on the main floor. For more resources on time management, help with planning your course work-load and other tips, read last week’s post.

Happy job-hunting!

Changing Your Mind About Your Degree/Major

July 6, 2018 - 11:00

Hello there readers!

It’s just 57 days until we get to meet you, and we’re so Xcited!! Coming to University can be a really scary thing, especially if you’re unsure about what you want to study and what you eventually want to do for the rest of your life. In my first year, I felt anxious about choosing what Department I was going to register in, particularly because I had done so many courses in High school that I absolutely loved and just couldn’t decide on one specific area! I decided to register in the Arts and see where that would take me. Now, in my fourth year, I am completing an advanced Business major in Accounting.

The next few years of your life are going to be a journey! You may not complete that journey in four years, and that’s okay! It’s important to remember that each person will take a different path during their time at university, and you won’t lose anything or miss out on life if your path is different than anyone else’s. Here are a few tips that may help you to deal with the uncertainties of registration and deciding what major you will want to pursue later in your university career.

1. Electives Are Your Friends

The first two years of university are meant to allow you to try out different courses and get a good feel of what your strengths and weak points are, and what courses you may like and dislike. So while taking up Sociology as an elective when you really intend to get a degree in Economics might seem pointless, there is actually a benefit to be gained from this! (In my biased opinion, everyone needs to take at least two Soc courses in their lives, it really gets you thinking deeply!) Taking various electives will not only help you to potentially discover new passions, but can also give some direction, particularly to those who are still confused about where they best fit into University courses. In fact, I know of people who came into their first year feeling 100% certain about which program they wanted to be in and what they were going to do after graduation, only to find that they actually had more interest in another area, through taking electives. So don’t feel discouraged or frustrated about having to pick electives which have nothing to do with your degree program; these electives always come in handy in one way or another, trust me.

2. Visit Academic Advising

I cannot stress this point enough! Academic Advising services are extremely crucial for every student and it’s unfortunate that they are not used as often as they should be. The purpose of Academic Advisors is not only to help you when you are in trouble and need to drop a course, or when your grades have been consistently low during the semester; they are there to help you to plan for success in whatever program you are in and to plan ahead for how to avoid some of these issues from rising up later. If you need help accessing tutors in your program, the Academic Advisors are great to connect with too! Academic advising can be accessed by making online appointments here and also through Walk-ins at different times during the day. All of the Advisors are located in Lane Hall, apart from the Business students’ Advisor, who can be found in Schwartz. Getting help from the advisors early on in the term could really save you a lot of time in the future!

3. Get Involved

There is so much to be gained from becoming involved with your campus and broader Antigonish community. Often times, career and degree choices stem from the activities we see ourselves involved in daily and which we ultimately enjoy doing! You may join a society and discover that you love working with people, or are great at handling money and creating budgets. Uncovering these skills early can eventually lead you to what your true passion is and eliminate some of the confusion you might experience along the way. The Career Services office is readily available to point you to different campus employment opportunities too, so you can find what you love doing here on this campus, and get paid for it! The Career Centre also helps students to figure out what they can do with their degree after graduation, so if you are thinking ahead and have some concerns or questions about where you might end up after graduation, definitely pay them a visit! Their office hours are in Schwartz 194, Monday-Friday from 1-4pm.

4. Be Patient With Yourself

This is so important. Even if you change your mind five or six times before you finally decide on your degree program, understand that this is normal and you’re not the first to be a little confused. Most people will change their careers 5-7 times within their working lives, so what you do post-graduation may not even be the same thing you will be doing ten years forward! Don’t put too much pressure then, on what kind of degree you have to get or how many years it should take you to get there. These things work themselves out on their own. Students usually make life-altering decisions about their programs and degrees based on timelines surrounding the X-ring and when they are expected to graduate by family and friends, and yet there is more to the journey. It should not be compromised unnecessarily by rigid social pressures. Be kind to yourself. Be patient with yourself.

See you next week for another post lovelies!!

 

 

Dealing With Culture Shock

June 29, 2018 - 14:15

What is culture shock?

Culture shock is the unavoidable phenomenon that you will likely experience the minute you arrive in this foreign country. It is a term used to describe what happens to people when they encounter unfamiliar surroundings and conditions in a new environment. If you’re like me, you’ve grown up in your home country and have naturally become accustomed to the ways and traditions of your culture. You may not quite realize how much of a bubble your world was until you step outside of it and come here. I grew up in Zimbabwe, which is a country in Southern Africa, and perhaps this great distance between continents is cause for the fact that almost everything is different here in Canada – more so than it would likely be for someone who was raised in Europe or in the US.

Stages of Culture Shock

Adapting to change isn’t an easy path for anyone,  but it’s (hopefully) what you were seeking to gain from this new experience of being in a new country – a fresh, different environment. Culture shock often occurs in four different stages:

  • “Honeymoon” stage – at first, you are excited and intrigued, curious to explore this new environment which you may even have been dreaming about when you were at home. Everything is going smoothly and you are eager to make friends.
  • Irritability – When this stage passes, you may start to feel like the differences between this new culture and your own are irritating, causing you to blame your frustrations on the new environment rather than the adaptation process.
  • Gradual Adjustment – you’ve made friends and have begun to feel more comfortable and at ease with your surroundings, allowing you to accept the new culture and not judge it so harshly.
  • Adaptation –  you feel a sense of belonging and stability, and no longer worry about not fitting in or being accepted.

Dealing With Culture Shock

At all stages, culture shock is normal and you will not be alone when you experience it. Here are a few tips to help you in your adjustment period:

  • Talk to other International students who can give you practical advice – the upper year Internationals have probably experienced the same things you are going through and are a great resource to approach. You can easily meet other International students by joining the International Student Society, which often has fun events planned that can help you to meet other people from different countries.
  • Be patient and give yourself time to adapt – it’s okay to feel sad about the life you left behind at home, but don’t let it take over your ability to start a new life and meet new people who may ultimately change your life.
  • Decorate your room with objects that remind you of home, and listen to a playlist of music from your country from time to time. Staying in touch with your roots can help you to feel like you are not alone and can also help you to remember why you came here.
  • Maintain contact with friends and family back home – this is your primary support system and it will be helpful to have people to talk to who already know you as you adjust to your new school environment.
  • Keep an open mind – this is very important! You may or may not come from a more conservative background and will find that Canadians do things differently from you back home, and this is the beauty of coming here to experience a new way of life. Try new things and push yourself to explore things you never have before, but try to maintain your core values and not lose yourself in the process.
  • Lastly, make a list of things you want to accomplish while you are at StFX and while you are in Canada – and follow through on these goals! You came here for a reason, and when you put your mind to it you can accomplish your goal!

I hope these tips are helpful in your journey at StFX, and don’t forget that there are always resources to assist you when you are feeling homesick, lonely, or struggling to adjust, all you need to do is seek help. Your International Student Advisor is located on the 4th floor of Bloomfield and is always available to speak with you and help with whatever you may need!

Self-Care Sundays

June 15, 2018 - 10:13

One of the most important aspects of transitioning to University Life is learning to prioritize self care. University will be the first time many students will be living away from home, and this, along with having to make new friends, juggle a full course-load, and learn to be an adult overnight, can cause some stress and anxiety. Unfortunately, your mum will probably not be around everyday to remind you to eat your vegetables and get enough sleep, so it will be all up to you to take the time out from your busy schedule to relax, breathe, and care for yourself. For me, Sundays are the best days to catch up on school work and get prepared for the week ahead, and part of being prepared involves ensuring that my mind and body are well-rested and fresh! Here are a few of the ways that I choose to relax and reset on my Self-care Sundays.

1. Bubble-baths

Who doesn’t want to sit in a warm tub of bubbles and delicious-smelling bath bombs?! This is probably my FAVORITE way to relax – every muscle in my body agrees! Not only have bubble baths been proven to improve your mood, they can also assist with soothing muscle pain! The combination of bodily comfort, warmth, isolation, and body positioning all contribute towards making you feel good – smelling like a fresh rose afterwards is an added benefit! I usually take a long bubble-bath on Sunday evenings, right before bed, as this helps me to sleep better. If you’re living in a residence without bathtubs (unlike Riley, O’Regan, Governors Hall), try to befriend someone who is! Or you could just wait until next year when you get to live in a different building lol!

 2. Face Masks

After a long week, you might feel like your skin needs a good mask and exfoliation to revive it. Masks are a great way of achieving this. There are so many different kinds that you can choose from for the different needs you may have: brightening, skin-firming, hydrating, you name it! My go-tos are the ones sold in Shoppers Drugmart; I especially stock up on these when they are on sale! A good way to save money is to make a DIY mask at home using natural ingredients. To rehydrate your skin, try this easy recipe:

  • 1/2 ripe avocado
  • 1 teaspoon plain organic yogurt
  • 1 teaspoon of honey

Mash the avocado to a soft pulp and add the remaining ingredients to form a paste. Apply to your face and leave on for 10-15 minutes to moisturize stressed out skin!

3. Tea

Before coming to University, I wasn’t as huge a fan of tea as I am now! However, I quickly discovered all the benefits that tea has to offer. Tea is very soothing when you are not feeling well, and certain teas (Lemon tea, Ginger and honey tea) help to boost your immune system and reduce your chances of getting sick or staying sick for a long time! Green tea will help to detox your system by supporting your body’s natural ability to cleanse itself of harmful substances – very useful after a weekend of partying and drinking. Tea also has less caffeine than coffee does, so it will provide stimulation for your body without those pesky effects on your nervous system. What a win.            Pro Tip: Meal Hall has a section at the back where there are boxes of different flavoured teas for you to pick from! Ask the friendly staff to show you where this is if you’re unsure where to find it!

4. A Good Movie

Very few things help me to beat stress and feelings of anxiety like a good movie or TV Series. When I feel like I’ve sufficiently caught up with my schoolwork and assignments, I allow myself the pleasure of being immersed into a funny or romantic show. Often times, this helps to provide a good release – either through laughter or tears – that ultimately leaves me feeling a whole lot better! To make the experience even better, invite a friend to watch it with you. Usually, the CAs in each building will plan informal movie nights for their floor, so look out for those programs if you are a little too shy to invite people to watch a show with you! If you don’t feel like having company, watch it while you’re in the tub enjoying a bubble bath. DOUBLE THE PLEASURE!!

Lastly, remember to make effort to care for your body and mind everyday of the week, in any way that you can! This is a great idea I found online which you can use to ensure that you always have comforting resources nearby for any situation!

 

 

 

Dear First Year Student: The DOs and DONTs of University

June 8, 2018 - 09:49

I graduated from university a few years ago and am now pursuing higher education. While I’m definitely not the perfect student (is there even such a thing), I have learned a bit about the DOs and DONTs of university that I want to share with you.

1. Taking regular breaks is so important! Don’t try to power through five hours of reading in one sitting – university is a marathon, not a sprint. Try the 50-10 rule. Set a timer for 50 minutes and spend that time working towards a goal with no interruptions, then set another timer for 10 minutes and use this to take a break and recharge.

2. Take advantage of the little breaks you find between classes. Use this time to catch up on work, review course notes or preview slides for the next lecture. It can be easy to go back to your residence during an hour gap and convince yourself that you’ll be productive, but it turns out that is usually a guilt-filled journey into the depths of Instagram every time.

3. The library isn’t the only place to study on campus. You might like empty classrooms. Coffee shops in town might also provide some inspiration, and get you out of the campus bubble for a bit when you’re working on daunting papers.

4. It’s OK to say ‘no’ sometimes. When you’re surrounded by other students, it can be tempting to accept every invitation and spread yourself too thin. Know your limits and learn to politely decline some invitations. Your friends will understand. They are probably in the same boat and often wish they had the courage to say the same thing. Catch up with them next time, it’ll be much more enjoyable if you spend time with friends as a reward after you’ve finished your work.

5. Don’t be afraid to ask for help. There are so many people who are so willing to help you (it’s their job!) – your CAs, professors, StFX Student Success Centre, StFX Health and Counselling Centre, Student Life and so many more. It will make your journey at StFX so much smoother!

 

Learning Strategies That Can Save You: Weekly Review

June 4, 2018 - 10:04

Something that I found astounding in my first year was the amount of information that professors give in each class. In High school, teachers would give you days and even weeks to grasp a concept. In University, you have 60 minutes. How are you supposed to remember all of this information, and apply it?! It took me until second semester to figure this out… and I haven’t looked back since.

The first step to managing what you learned in lectures is making sure to ask questions. If you are confused about what your professor said, ASK! If you don’t want to ask in front of the whole class, visit your professor’s office hours. By clarifying concepts right away, future lectures will make more sense and it will help you immensely when you start studying for exams.

What happens when you get to midterms and finals? How do you remember everything that you learned? Do you try to memorize it all? This was my approach in my first year. Unfortunately, information seemed to be flowing out of my head just as quickly as it was flowing in – no matter how much I tried to cram it into my memory.

To overcome this, I gave myself about an hour and a half every Sunday afternoon to review all the concepts I learned over the previous week. By week five of classes, I was reviewing week one, two, three, four, and five. You are probably thinking, “Whoa! That must have taken forever!” But, since I had previously reviewed week one four times already, it only took a few minutes to look over the material since I already knew it so well. As you can imagine, by exams, what I had learned throughout the semester was relatively fresh in my mind. During exams, I could focus on studying instead of learning the material over again.

Creating a weekly review routine ensures that you are keeping up with what you learn throughout the semester. It also alleviates some of the stress around exams. Instead of trying to shove everything into my short-term memory, what I was learning was engrained into my long-term memory. I was starting to make connections with the material. So when exams rolled around I felt more prepared and was able to recall the information more easily.

It’s never too late to start a new review routine – try it out for the first few weeks on campus, and see how much time it saves you during finals!

Learning to not be afraid to ask questions and reviewing what I had learned weekly definitely decreased my exam stress levels and prepared me for greater academic success in upper years.

         

Balling on a Budget: 5 Saving Tips for the Frugal Student

June 1, 2018 - 14:11

OK. So let’s be real here: adapting to the student life isn’t one of the easiest shifts in anyone’s lifestyle. I mean, you’re no longer living under your parent’s roof, which is great for some because this means more freedom and more independence. But with independence comes great responsibility, and you find yourself suddenly having to pay for things which never even used to cross your mind in your daily life at home – like gas, food, and maybe even electricity and heat for those living off campus! This blog is all about how you can save some extra dollars, and find alternative, cheaper options for the items you will want and need during your time at X. Thank me later!

1. 10% Discount Tuesdays

Yeap, with nothing but your student ID, you can get 10% off of your total groceries bill in Superstore and Sobeys on Tuesdays! It’s easy to see why most students take advantage of this and only shop on Tuesdays, because 10% can go a long way in reducing the amount that you have to pay at the till. Do make sure to go shopping either in the early afternoon, or late evening to beat the rush, as most people generally go to Superstore after classes are done at 5pm. Pro Tip: Lawtons Drugstore offers a 10% discount to students EVERY DAY! So if you miss the Tuesday deals for one reason or the next, you always have Lawtons as your back up plan (at least for snacks and other essentials).

2. Antigonish Transit

The Antigonish transit is a local bus service which not many students seem to know about or make use of, but should! This bus has various pick up locations around campus, including the Keating Center and the Bloomfield Center (Students’ Union Building, AKA the SUB). The most popular pick up place would be the one outside of the SUB, and the bus usually arrives here at six minutes past every hour. All it will cost you is a Toonie for a return trip to Walmart/Superstore, and the bus drivers are even kind enough to drop you off right outside of your building on the way back, if you live on campus! If it isn’t a busy night, they may even take you to your apartment if you live off-campus at a reasonable distance from their regular route, so just ask! This will save you a whole $10, versus taking a cab, which would cost you $6 each way – definitely a great deal. The bus also makes its way to the mall at some point during the day, so don’t hesitate to ask for a printed schedule of the times and routes for the transit at the front desk in the Bloomfield.

3. StFX Carpool Facebook Group

So one of the less exciting things about living in Antigonish is the fact that it is so far from the city. The bus ride to Halifax is not only pricey, it’s lengthy too ( it takes about 3 hours to get into the city). But worry not, because students have figured out a way around this! Some genius created the Facebook page above (if you type in those exact words it should show up) and anyone driving up to Halifax will typically post on the group if they are willing to drive a bunch of other people up too. It’s also easy to find rides by simply posting the date and time that you are seeking a ride yourself! It can also be a great opportunity for you meet new people each time you travel up with a different carpool (most drivers like it when you bring snacks and good music/conversation) but this isn’t forced. Also, don’t forget to chip in for gas! Whatever amount you and the driver agree on will most likely still be cheaper than going on the bus.

4. StFX Buy & Sell Facebook Group

You MUST MUST join this group! Not only will you be saving money, you can make some back too! All throughout the year, students will post whatever items they no longer have need for, or brand new items that do not fit (including brand name items) on this page, at a very decent price. The page becomes most popular at the end of the school year when students are leaving and want to get rid of a lot of the things they can’t take home with them, so if you have the time and energy, definitely surf the page for some amazing deals! It is easy to find furniture, gently worn clothing and shoes, and textbooks at great prices through this group. Perhaps consider waiting at least two weeks into the semester before buying your textbooks from the bookstore, because there are always upper year students looking to sell off their books at much lower prices than you would pay for them if you bought them brand new. This will literally save you hundreds of dollars – who wouldn’t want that?? Pro-tip: Some textbooks on the group may be an edition or two behind the one being used in your class – if this is the case, check with your professor if there are any major differences between the editions and if you will still have a chance to perform well using an older edition. Trust me though, once you get to fourth year you’ll be willing to use a textbook even 4 editions back if it means not spending $200 on it; by this time it won’t make much of a difference to you!

5. Thrift Stores

Thrift stores are some of the most underrated facilities ever! Basically, people go to thrift stores and donate all kinds of items which they no longer fit, need, or desire. If you go in on the right day, you could pick up a bag of fantastic clothing for literally $5! Thrift stores are also great for those times when you need a low-cost, one-time outfit for Halloween, for example. In Antigonish, there are three such kinds of stores (see down below for specific location details): The Opportunity shop (along Main Street, behind the gas station), Encore Consignment Emporium (also along Main St, across from Dream Catchers)  and Fashion Frenzies, which is along the highway across from Superstore. If you are feeling bored one day, take a walk to either one of these stores and hey, you might just surprise yourself with a whole new wardrobe change.

Locations:

If you have any more tips on how to save in the Nish, comment down below!! Thanks for tuning in!

6 Tips for surviving winter from an international student

May 15, 2018 - 16:55
So you’ve just arrived in Canada for the first time. You aren’t quite sure what to expect from Mother Nature on your first day – from what you’ve heard about Canada you’ve pictured igloos and a bunch of students skiing their way to … Continue reading →

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