Every year, Canada gets about 300,000 international students, possibly more, and they come from all over the world. Many are from China, India, Saudi Arabia, France, Japan, Mexico and the United States, so there is a lot of cultural diversity and a mingling of ethnic groups.
This multicultural background is experienced in several ways. International students bring their own perspectives and experiences to the table, this including how they present themselves inside the classroom as well as outside of it.
Something else international students carry along is a food need that Canadian universities have yet to meet. When you come to study in a foreign country, it is expected that you adjust, but making ethnic foods available to foreign students is a responsibility that any university welcoming internationals should assume.
And some universities do. But for many international students, it’s often challenging to find culturally appropriate foods where they study. If you find yourself in this situation, there are a couple of things to help you fight these challenges.
Check with recruiters when applying to study in Canada
This is one of the very first things to ask during recruitment presentations if the University provides international students appropriate foods.
If the answer is yes, then the next thing to do is to check on forums with other students just to make sure. Often times, students are disappointed when they arrive on campus to find a lack of ethnic foods in total opposition to what recruiters had described.
If the answer is no, then consider researching around the area where you will be studying for supermarkets that sell international foods or specialty stores. As well, check to see if there are any restaurants that cater to foreigners.
Check in advance Canadians’ eating habits to see if you can adjust
To some people, food is merely a survival need. It doesn’t necessarily impact their lives to the point that they would feel an identity loss if they suddenly found themselves unavailable to source culturally relevant food.
But many students often face this challenge, and they find themselves having to compromise on food security, which leads to feelings of unease and homesickness. Food is a very strong cultural element, and the cultural significance of food varies country to country. Depending on where you’re coming from, food may be more significant to you than to other foreigners, so it’s important to know what’s available in a country before you travel.
Thanks to the large number of people who’ve come to live in Canada in the past years, the country’s cuisine has changed a lot and there are now many ethnic foods available widely. But as a student, you still have to make sure that there are appropriate foods close to your university, especially if you generally find it difficult to adjust to diverse eating habits.
When on site, tackle the issue with administration
Canadian universities such as the University of Guelph have already started to offer international students meal plans that meet their needs. Vegetarian options, “halal” meats and special requests are offered at the university’s cafeteria and in the various eateries around campus.
Feedback from international students helped the university establish offerings so if your university hasn’t yet taken a proactive approach in this direction, consider discussing the issue with the administration. Speak to other students too, choose a few spokesmen and see if you can bring the issue to their attention with utmost seriousness.