Ignite program helps first-year international students feel at home

A group of smiling students on the steps of University Hall

The pre-orientation program supports students from all over the world, giving them an opportunity to connect, get a feel for university life, explore Hamilton and learn about the services and supports available to them.

“McMaster feels [like] a family. I’m feeling very excited to be the first generation to study here abroad because I think it is a dream for many students from my country and I feel like I’m an example for my little brother and I hope he can follow my steps.”  — First-year student Francisco Wong

Francisco Wong, a first-year commerce student from Peru, stands beside his parents and younger brother after participating in the three-day Ignite Program.

Offered by McMaster’s Student Success Centre (SSC), Ignite is a pre-orientation designed to support first-year international students living in residence.

It offers students from all over the world an opportunity to connect with peers, gain insights on university life before classes start, explore Hamilton and learn more about the services and supports available to them at McMaster.

Created in partnership with McMaster Housing and Conference Services and faculty offices, Ignite ensures new international students have what they need before the school year begins.

Here are some highlights from this year’s program:

A family photo of Francisco Wong and his parents and brother.
Francisco Wong, left, with his parents and brother during Ignite programming.

Wong’s parents and other international students’ family members were able to join in for parts of the program.

“One of the wonderful things about the program is that we have parents and families here as they send their student off for their first steps in their journey at Mac,” says Sean Van Koughnett, Associate Vice-President (Students and Learning) and Dean of Students. “It helps provide reassurance and lessen any anxieties they might have.”

Sean Van Koughnett speaking into a microphone
Dean of Students Sean Van Koughnett welcomes international students to McMaster during the Ignite program

On the first day of Ignite, students were introduced to services offered by SSC, toured the campus and ended the day by watching a movie together. 

International students and Ignite program volunteers and family members at the Hamilton sign outside City Hall
International students and Ignite program volunteers and family members at the Hamilton sign outside City Hall.

They started Day 2 meeting with academic advisors and mentors. In the afternoon, they visited downtown Hamilton, where they took a group photo at the Hamilton sign, discovered local restaurants, visited the Hamilton Art Gallery and ended the day with a movie night at Westdale Theatre.

Moumita smiling at an outdoor location on campus.
Moumita Saha, a first-year international student.

“Because of this Ignite Program, I get to know my friends and students from different faculties. My favourite part was when we went to the restaurant, and we spent time together. We ate together, shared our feelings and we talked about the taste of the food.”  — First-year Faculty of Science student Moumita Saha

Prof. Anas Abdallah shares his own first-hand experience as a former international student with Ignite program participants

On the final day of Ignite, they met assistant professor Anas Abdallah, who shared their experiences from their time as international student and is now as a faculty member in Mathematics and Statistics. Abdallah shared advice and reassured students that their experience is valuable. 

Ignite participants celebrate and laugh
Ignite participants celebrate and laugh at a dinner.

They ended the day with a dinner for students, parents, families and staff to congratulate future Marauders. 

Danielle looking through the iron ring outside the Faculty of Engineering, smiling and giving a thumbs up.
First-year student Danielle Goveas

Devansh Arora, Program Support Assistant, asked Danielle Goveas, a first-year international student, what motivated her to join Ignite.

“Definitely Ana Pereira, she was quite passionate about it. I think I saw her hop on to one of the Mac101 calls and I was like, a whole program for international students? I’ve not seen that anywhere else. No university is doing it like Mac does and I have to join this program. I’m so glad I did! I made so many friends, the people here are so friendly, the staff is so helpful. I learned so much today.” 

Ana and two students smiling
Ana Perreira with two first-year students in the Ignite program.

Pereira, who is the Team Lead for the International and Exchange Student Experience team, shared her own advice for international students  going into the new school year.

“A word to our Igniters. I hope you enjoyed your three days. Please remember to get involved, get outside the Westdale bubble, it’s not all about the books, make new friends and enjoy your time here at Mac.” 

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