The global pandemic has brought mental health and resilience to the forefront of many people’s lives, and this is especially true for international students today. I came to Toronto as an international student a decade ago, and even without a global pandemic I found it difficult to make friends, navigate the city, and overcome my first Canadian winter. Thankfully, staff and faculty at New College helped me navigate my first years in the country and I had a wonderful experience that I’ll never forget. Today, as Student Life Officer I aim to provide IFP students with the same level of support and care as they begin their university journey.
The International Foundation Program has always appreciated the difficulty that students endured to arrive in Toronto and continues to develop new strategies to support students. With the opportunities I’ve had in my role as the Student Life Officer, a main focus of mine has been to connect students with one another. No one better understands the reality of our students better than their peers, and that connection can be integral to their success academically and socially.
“No one better understands the reality of our students better than their peers, and that connection can be integral to their success academically and socially.”
To foster a community of support we’ve worked with our wonderful student volunteers and IFP Committee. Students and I have been able to collaboratively organize events and initiatives throughout the pandemic. All student life opportunities were created to foster a positive learning and growth environment for the entire cohort. Whether it was online games, virtual parties, or even in-person events, student initiatives have been integral to IFP success during these trying times. Furthermore, students in the program have taken great measures to celebrate holidays and special occasions, such as the IFP Committee’s red envelope sharing during the Lunar New Year. Looking forward, I am excited about the in-person classes and extracurricular opportunities coming in February.
While student connection and initiatives can provide plenty of support for many students, we’re also proud to connect students to mental health resources provided by the University and beyond. The University has created a wide variety of resources dedicated to supporting student mental health, and resilience skill building. Whether it be helplines, workshops, or dedicated counselling, there are a variety of supports for students to engage with. Furthermore, the university has helped students understand these resources by creating a dedicated navigation tool that outlines which programs would be of best fit. While the navigation tool NAVI is a great tool, I make sure to work with students individually to find programs and opportunities that suit their interests and needs.
“Students and I have been able to collaboratively organize events and initiatives throughout the pandemic. All student life opportunities were created to foster a positive learning and growth environment for the entire cohort.”
While these past few years have been especially challenging for IFP cohorts, students have risen to the challenge and continued to surpass expectations. The resilience that students have cultivated during the pandemic is incredible, and I expect that it will serve them well as they continue their educational journeys. While we hope that the pandemic continues to wind down, our office is working diligently to record and process the lessons we and students learned, and continue the program’s history of excellence and exceptional support. I’m excited to see how students continue to connect and use resources to continue bettering themselves and each other.
Tyler Cousin is is the Student Life Officer with the International Programs and oversees all student life initiatives for all programs. He ensures our students in all programs feel supported and have the most positive experiences at U of T. During the summer, Tyler leads the student life programming and summer staff hiring, training, and support. During the fall/winter semesters, he coordinates with various university offices and organizations to provide extracurricular opportunities for IFP students. He is your go-to person for everything student related!