Ignite Program gives first-year international students tools to thrive at McMaster

Ignite students cross the rainbow crosswalk outside Hamilton's City Hall

The Ignite Program offers first-year international students the chance to connect with peers and get connected to resources that will help them thrive during their time at McMaster. (Photo by Georgia Kirkos/McMaster University).

Before the rush of Welcome Week, a group of international students — some of whom had never set foot in Canada before — gathered on McMaster’s campus to start their university journey.

They were here for the Ignite Program, a program offered by the Student Success Centre to help first-year international students living in residence get acquainted with campus and the city, and get help with necessities like cellphones and bank accounts.

But beyond that, the program offers students the opportunity to meet others and connect with resources that will help them thrive during their time at McMaster.

“It’s so great to watch these students connect and build friendships throughout the week,” says Ana Pereira, lead coordinator for international students with the Student Success Centre. “We know it will be so enriching for their student experience. It’s also a lot of fun getting to know these students as we take them to fun spots around Hamilton.”

For the students, the week was filled with campus tours, talks by professors, exploration of the city’s downtown, checking out Hamilton’s restaurants and taking part in fun social events like roller skating.

Watch below: Students explore McMaster’s campus and the City of Hamilton as part of the Ignite 2022 program 

Hear from four of the students who attended this year’s Ignite program:  

Darius, first-year engineering student from Trinidad and Tobago 

Ignite students pose with the Hamilton sign outside City Hall
Ignite students pose with the Hamilton sign outside City Hall (photo by Georgia Kirkos/McMaster University)

Q: What are your first impressions of McMaster and Hamilton?

McMaster is fantastic – the best choice I could have made. Honestly, I thought it was a little small, judging from the website. But it’s really big! Hamilton too. It’s not as big as Toronto, but it’s big in its own way.

Q: What advice do you have for international students considering the Ignite program?

I would say if you can make it, do your best to come. It’s probably the best way to give yourself a little advantage. I would say for international students, this is our Welcome Week.

Avani, first-year life sciences student from India 

Q: How was your experience in the Ignite program?

It’s been amazing. I came here really, really nervous about two things: academics, because the system is so different from my country, and making connections socially. So, I thought Ignite was something that would really help me out with this, and it actually did. I feel like I’m entering a new family already.

Five students sitting around a restaurant table
Ignite students got to experience Hamilton’s food scene, visiting several of the city’s restaurants (photo by Georgia Kirkos/McMaster University)

Q: What was your favorite part of the program?

I think the thing I enjoyed the most was how open everyone is. The program was designed for people to make connections, and it’s done exactly that. You can go ahead and meet new people, hang out, learn about different cultures. I think all of us in this program are really, really lucky that we get to meet others in a safe space, get to interact with them and understand more about cultures we’ve maybe not had a chance to learn about. And I think that just made the experience so special.

Devron, first year life sciences student originally from Jamaica

Q: Why did you want to participate in the Ignite program?

I felt like I would get a head start before the rush of Welcome Week comes. I’m naturally a more introverted person so I felt that being in a smaller group session I’d be able to come out of my shell, talk to people, introduce myself before Welcome Week and that crush of people comes.

Devron sitting outdoors smiling at the camera
Devron, a first-year life sciences student originally from Jamaica, exploring downtown Hamilton (photo by Georgia Kirkos/McMaster University)

Q: What will you take away from the program as you continue at McMaster?

I think one of the greatest takeaways is realizing that we’re all the same. I feel like sometimes when you go into any new environment, you feel as if you’re the main character, that everyone is watching you, you’re the odd one out. But when I got into Ignite I realized everyone was just as scared, everyone was just as new, everyone just wanted to make friends. So, it’s important just to be yourself, talk to people and realize that no one is judging you, no one is out to get you. Just be yourself and be open and you’ll have a fun time.

Selena, first year earth & environmental sciences student from Trinidad and Tobago 

A student rollerskating and making peace signs at the camera with her hands
Lyric, a first-year student from China, roller skates at Hamilton’s Outdoor Skating Rink at Pier 8 (Photo by Christian Braun/McMaster University)

Q: Why did you want to participate in the Ignite program?

I’m an introverted person and I don’t make friends easily because I am quite shy, so when I saw they had the Ignite program for international students I grabbed the opportunity and it has been really helpful in making lots offriends and learning more about the school. On the first day I talked so much! I was not expecting it. Everyone was so friendly.

Q: What did you like about the program?

I really liked when the professors came to speak to us because it cleared up a lot of my questions with respect to classes because the education system is a bit different here than back home. They also gave me lots of helpful tips. I can find my buildings for classes much more easily now. They also took us roller-skating, which was an interesting experience. I think I fell once. You know, I don’t think I would do it again but it was fun!


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