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6 Ways for International Students to Build Skills with Online Resources

By Diane Amato

Published July 15, 2020 • 5 Min Read

Given the unknowns of the school year ahead, and the new ways you’ll be required to learn and attend classes, many international students are concerned about the upcoming school year.

While you wait for classes to begin, this may be the right time to build valuable skills in preparation of the school year. Learning remotely can even help you gain skills to compete in the post-COVID world once you graduate.

Here are six ways learning online can prepare you for your future at school and beyond.

1. Enhance Your Language Skills.

Language may be a challenge for some international students while studying in Canada. Whether lectures will be virtual or back to in-person in the winter, understanding your instructors’ accents and academic terminology may be tricky — even if you have a working knowledge of English or French.

Here are free sites to help you boost your language skills:

  • The Resources of the Language Portal of Canada has multiple tools for improving your English or French, including translators, quizzes and writing resources, all available for free

  • Duolingo is an app-based program, which you can access for free. Duolingo tends to be most popular among those who want to practice a language instead of learning it from scratch.

  • At Randall’s ESL Cyber Listening Lab, you can work on your English listening skills with words and phrases you’re likely to hear on a daily basis, both in class and in social settings.

2. Expand Your Skill Set.

You may be studying life sciences — but why not take this opportunity to expand your focus with a coding or programming course to round out your skill set? Or if you’re a physics major, consider giving web development a try. There are many organizations that offer free courses to learn today’s much-needed technology skills — skills that may come in handy as the world moves ever faster in a digital direction.

  • Alison.comCoursera and Codeacademy are some of the top online education providers that offer free programs and courses in nearly any technical area.

  • RBC Future Launch features skill building tools and programs to help you expand your scope of expertise and interest. The key is to choose skills that you’re genuinely curious about and keen to explore further.

3. Strengthen Your Network.

A strong network can help open doors to new opportunities, offer support, and spark ideas as you connect with like-minded individuals.

While in-person networking isn’t possible right now, there are many online opportunities to start or grow your network. RBC Future Launch offers resources to explore as you look to build your network, and provides suggestions on conferences, seminars or groups to join virtually.

4. Improve Your Financial Literacy.

Many students feel challenged managing money during school. Because of the distance from home and support systems, international students can feel particularly challenged.

While you may not be physically at your school to start the year, now is a great time to boost your financial literacy. Learn how to create a budget, manage credit and save for the future with online programs such as McGill Personal Finance Essentials. Online and free for anyone, the course takes you through seven learning modules on a variety of important financial topics. And because the material is based on the Canadian financial system, you may become more comfortable with managing your money while you’re here.

5. Boost Your Digital Literacy.

Chances are, like most students, you’re pretty digitally literate already. But are there areas you can explore further? Have you mastered video calling and online assignment submission? Do you know how to create your own live event (say, to facilitate a group project)? Are you familiar with a wide range of platforms so you can choose which one works best for you?

The best way to improve your digital literacy is to explore the online world yourself and practice activities you may need to do for school.

6. Manage Your Mental Well-being.

With the school year shaping up to look different than you imagined, you may be dealing with feelings of boredom, sadness or loneliness.

Connecting with resources online dedicated to your mental health may help you overcome these feelings.

  • RBC Future Launch and have put together an online hub to help youth take charge of their own mental health — or help others who may be struggling.

  • The University of Toronto also offers an online course through Coursera that focuses specifically on how to manage your mental health during COVID-19.

While learning remotely may not be what you had planned for 2020/2021, you can prepare for a successful academic experience in a variety of ways through online courses. What’s more, online learning can help you develop important skills to use now and after you graduate.

This article is intended as general information only and is not to be relied upon as constituting legal, financial or other professional advice. A professional advisor should be consulted regarding your specific situation. Information presented is believed to be factual and up-to-date but we do not guarantee its accuracy and it should not be regarded as a complete analysis of the subjects discussed. All expressions of opinion reflect the judgment of the authors as of the date of publication and are subject to change. No endorsement of any third parties or their advice, opinions, information, products or services is expressly given or implied by Royal Bank of Canada or any of its affiliates.

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