Debunking Canadian Myths: What I learned by being a Peer Helper at Carleton’s International Student Services Office
Kemi Obando is a third-year communications and media studies student.
1) In Canada it snows year-round: False. The first snow in Canada did not arrive until late October and even then, the weather was still in the positives. In fact, the beginning of the fall semester was so warm that at the ISSO, international students had the opportunity to experiencing summer activities such as; Yoga and Light shows at Parliament, Picnics and biking along the Rideau Canal and even visiting Mooney’s Bay beach. Unlike popular ideology, Canada is not all ice and frozen fingers. Our summers get really hot and even into the fall things stay relatively warm and at the ISSO, we make sure that International students get the most out of both the warm and cold aspects of Canada.
2) Canadians Love the Great Outdoors: True. But we get the best of both worlds at ISSO. Have you been to Gatineau Park in the fall? It is beautiful. Great for hiking and recreational activities, the park is an example of outdoor space we Canadians appreciate. Fall makes the leaves and paths beautiful and Instagram-worthy. Also luckily, the ISSO has an annual school trip with peer helpers and seasoned hikers to make the trip to Gatineau park worthwhile. And so, to some extent, it is true that Canadians love outdoors, but as a tool for relaxation and encounters with nature, not just for hunting and other wild assumptions about what we do with nature. However, if the great outdoors are not your thing as an International student, do not fret because Canadians also love the great indoors. With activities like the Fall Coffeehouse, and the making connections luncheon with a bowl of hot soup planned by the ISSO, one can enjoy a warm and cozy while having an indoor Canadian experience.
3) Canadians only know how to play Hockey: False. Have you ever seen the Ottawa RedBlacks play at TD square, or the Carleton Ravens football team crush their opponents at a Panda game? It is epic, showing that Canadians do not only excel in hockey but other sports as well. ISSO brings students to these sports games where international students can experience the games first-hand. However, with hockey and lacrosse being the national sports of Canada, it is understandable why that assumption can be made. In order to give interested international students the chance to experience life on ice, the ISSO organizes bi-weekly ice-skating events and with the aid of peer helpers and volunteers, which takes students to go to live hockey games where they can enjoy our national sport.
4) If you come to Canada, Toronto is the place to be: False. Sure, Toronto is pretty neat and popular. However, Ottawa has something to offer that the “6ix” does not, and that is history. Ottawa is home to; the National Art Gallery, the War Museum and the Parliament of Canada which all showcase Canada’s history and beauty. As an international student, being in the Capital of Canada has its perks. You are privy to Gothic-like mansions, free tours of the parliament buildings and free tours at Ottawa’s art centres on Thursday nights. Ottawa also has one of the largest naturally frozen rinks in the world, and that is the Rideau Canal, it freezes in the winter and is free for everyone, including the international students that the ISSO escorts there biweekly. However, if you still want to visit the monument on Drake’s album, the Carleton exchange team hosts yearly trips and school tours to Toronto and other beautiful parts of Canada for interested international students.
5) We All Speak French In Canada: False. Canada is home to a multilingual, diverse population, not all of which speak French. At Carleton University, the ISSO ensures a smooth transition for international students from all over the world. In fact, through the ISSO, you are more likely to meet more international students from all over the world than just Francois students. The ISSO hosts exchanges students from Sweden, India, Germany, China, Australia and many more. However, if the transition from your country to Ottawa still scares you, do not worry. Exchange coordinators host orientation at the beginning of each semester in order to ease international students into the Canadian lifestyle. Also throughout the semester, there are socials and gatherings to help initiate friendships with international students from all over the world.
Hopefully, debunking these common myths international students have about Canada has helped clear some assumptions of what Canada is like, and helped you make a decision about your next great adventure, which is through the ISSO in Carleton University, Ottawa.
See you next year!