McMaster student volunteers welcome international students at the airport

An arriving student with his cart full of luggage smiles with volunteers at the airport, beside a big

Soraya Rosli, second from right — an international student herself — is one of 65 volunteers who help first-years the moment they get to Canada. (Georgia Kirkos, McMaster University)

When Soraya Rosli first arrived in Canada a few years ago, she got lost at the airport.

This week, the fourth-year international student was back at Toronto Pearson International arrivals, this time to make sure that other international students don’t feel lost or lonely.

Rosli is one of 65 student volunteers in the Airport Welcome Program, created to offer incoming international students a warm welcome, support and help as they navigate their way to a new school in a new country.

“I decided to volunteer for this program so I can help support students the moment they step out of international arrivals,” Rosli said.

“I’ve seen how the program has reduced students’ anxieties about moving to another country. It can also provide a sense of comfort.”

Looks like it works.

“I’m feeling very excited coming to a new country for the first time,” an arriving first-year told Rosli at Pearson.

“I have a few days before the classes start, hopefully I can explore Hamilton and make new friends.”

The program is a partnership between the McMaster Student Success Centre, the City of Hamilton, Mohawk College and Columbia International College.

The support for McMaster students continues after they leave the airport: This year, the Student Success Centre and the Faculty of Engineering, in partnership with the Office of the Provost and other faculty offices, is working with Airways Transit to provide incoming first-year international undergraduate, graduate, McMaster English Language Development (MELD) and exchange students a free, safe and reliable shared ride from Pearson to McMaster’s campus.

An arriving undergraduate student and student Airport Welcome Program volunteers smile at Pearson airport, standing with luggage.

During the Airport Welcome Program, arriving students also learned about iCent, a dedicated platform and app where they can access resources like information on local transit and banking, to support their transition to living and learning in Canada.

This tool provides a personalized experience based on the student’s year and program, connecting them to wraparound supports and resources in one place.

For more information on services and programs provided by the International and Exchange Student Experience Team, visit the Student Success Centre website.

These initiatives are supported by the Office of the Provost’s Strategic Alignment Funding to provide a personalized and memorable experience for international students.