A large number of international students at UTM drop out or are struggling academically. Many of these students require accommodations through the Health & Counselling Centre or the AccessAbility Resource Centre. However, they are either unaware about these services or are hesitant to visit the offices due to the stigma around it and lack of inclusion.
Many students suffer from severe anxiety, dyslexia and other learning challenges and require services from these offices. The AccessAbility office at UTM provides academic accommodations to students who have disabilities. There are currently over 2,000 students registered with disabilities across the UofT campuses yet many international students are not aware of their services.
Examples of accommodation include: extension on papers/assignments, note takers, writing a test in a room with fewer distractions, accessible class materials in alternative forms such as braille and many more. For some international students, services similar to AccessAbility exist in schools in their home countries and so are aware to look for these services once they arrive at UTM.
I had a talk with Ryan, an international student from New Zealand who uses the AccessAbility office. Ryan is on exchange at UTM and recalls having a similar service in his university back home, which is what prompted his search for the AccessAbility office once he got to Canada. For Ryan, having an accommodation to take tests in a smaller room with fewer distractions is very helpful unlike taking a test in the same room with 400 other students.
Unlike Ryan, many other international students learn about mental health for the first time when they come to UTM. For those who are aware, there is usually a stigma about Mental Health or registering with AccessAbility in their home country and so shy away from seeking help when they get to UTM. We are trying to raise more awareness amongst international students about the resources available to them through the AccessAbility office to them and hopefully end the stigma about using these services. For more information on how to seek support with AccessAbility, visit their website here.