Deadline for Welcome Mentors applications approaches

Program involves experienced students mentoring new international students

The application deadline to become a welcome mentor for new international students in the upcoming winter term is fast approaching, with Dec. 2 being the last day to apply.

The program assigns new international students to an experienced University of Manitoba student, who will help guide them as they adjust to student life in a potentially unfamiliar culture.

Nora Ampomah, the intercultural programs co-ordinator at the U of M International Centre, said that the Welcome Mentors program exists to help integrate new arrivals into the post-secondary environment.

“Although moving to a new country is exciting, it can be a bit challenging for international students,” she said, adding that this can be especially true for students who have never studied in or visited Canada before.

In the 2021 fall term, the University of Manitoba provided education to nearly 6,800 international students, which made up 21.9 per cent of the total student population.

Welcome Mentors will provide one-on-one assistance to the new students they are paired with, helping them find academic resources and complete tasks such as registering for courses, paying fees and getting a student ID or bus pass.

Ampomah said that mentors can also refer students to services on campus, as well as other non-academic resources.

“Usually new international students have to navigate cultural shock, especially during the winter term,” she explained.

“They don’t know how cold it is in Winnipeg, so mentors are able to connect them to the right resources in terms of giving them recommendations on where they could get, for example, a good winter jacket, where they could get groceries, get a bank account.”

Any domestic or international students may apply to become a mentor, whether they are in undergraduate or graduate studies.

The mentorship lasts for one semester, and mentors are encouraged to communicate virtually with their mentees for an hour and a half per week to meet the required total of 15 hours throughout the term.

Those who are accepted as mentors will receive training on how to best assist students who are new to student life in Canada, and will be eligible to receive credit on their co-curricular record.

Similar mentorship programs for international students exist at other Canadian universities, such as the University of Calgary, York University and the University of Toronto Mississauga.

Ampomah noted that most of the mentors are former mentees.

“New international students really value the support they receive from the program, and because of that, many of them return to the program as volunteers themselves, so they can give back to another new student,” she said.

“It’s a great way for students to enhance their cross-cultural competence by developing a relationship with a peer who may be from a different country or culture.”