New school, new country, plenty of new questions.

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Read the tale of how one international student navigated his way through his first year at UTM, made new friends, and learned how to be self-sufficient in a whole new country.

The life of an international student is filled with new beginnings and many questions, but with one in four new students at the University of Toronto Mississauga being international, we can assure you that you won’t be alone in this journey!

One student who knows best what it’s like being international at the University of Toronto Mississauga is fourth year Digital Enterprise Management student Jason Quay.

Jason, a 21-year-old international student, came to the University of Toronto Mississauga from Shanghai and still remembers the excited anticipations he felt when he first arrived.

“When I came here it was my first time living alone,” Jason recalled. “For the first week or so it was cool, then reality set in and I realized there were many things to do and lots to learn.”

For Jason, common worries like will he “fit in” or “find himself” in a new country weren’t his primary concerns, instead Jason found he was preoccupied with more practical things like “what’s for dinner?”

“When I first came here it was my first time living alone and I didn’t realize how much effort it takes to feed yourself. My cooking skills were lacking so I was eating a lot of junk food.”

Since then Jason has discovered his inner Chef Ramsay and become an expert in the art of cooking pasta in addition to finding reasonably priced restaurants near the university.

For Jason, cooking wasn’t the only skill he picked up while living alone. When it comes to advice for international students, Jason recommends creating a budget and sticking to it. “The most important thing about living alone is budgeting. Plan your budget and know as many of your actual costs so you can build a more solid financial plan.”

Some of the costs Jason suggests students should account for include: tuition, school related fees, rent, groceries, and personal expenses such as cell phone bills, entertainment and clothing.

When it comes to his university experience, Jason noted that what has gotten him through his rigorous budgeting and endless pasta dinners has been his ability to socialize at the university. “School is going to be challenging and stressful at times, but what keeps you positive and motivated is if you socialize and have a good support system.” Jason recommends that to make new friends students should join clubs, attend events and, most importantly, not be afraid to ask for or give help to classmates in lectures. “For me, making new friends here has opened-up gateways to communities I would have never known exist.” There are plenty of academic societies, student societies and student groups at UTM that can fulfil your interests.

When discussing his new-found friendships in Canada, Jason recommends that incoming international students try to make local Canadian friends in addition to new international friends from around the world. Jason went on to note “If you start interacting with Canadians you will begin to appreciate the diversity this country has.” With students from more than 95 countries around the world, the University of Toronto Mississauga has a highly diverse population of students to discover and befriend.

Creating new friendships, learning to budget, and cooking your own food may all lead to anxious feelings towards your upcoming educational experience, but according to fellow international student Jason there’s no reason to fear failure. “Don’t be afraid to fail spectacularly,” he tells all incoming students. “The whole point of going to university is to grow, and you can only grow by failing.”

For more information about Jason or the International Education Centre, feel free to follow us on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter, check out our website, give us a call at 905-569-4716, send us an email at, or drop by in person at DV2071!

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