“We saw an opportunity in early 2020 to create a space for international students to come together and share knowledge and experiences over a cup of coffee or tea,” says Adrian Bontuyan, Coordinator of International Student Success at the University of the Fraser Valley (UFV).
What was born out of that idea was STEP Café.
STEP, which stands for Settlement, Transition and Engagement Program, is a place for regular group meetings to help UFV international students get answers to questions about different parts of student life, including academics, health, accommodation, working, self-care, and community engagement.
“What we were hearing from our international students was they needed a safe space to ask questions and connect with others. They were also looking for guidance on how to navigate university life,” says Adrian.
Meetings first started as in-person at the UFV’s global lounge but transitioned online once the pandemic started. Since then, STEP Café has offered online information sessions working collaboratively with Regulated Canadian Immigration Consultants, Medical Insurance Specialists, and Academic Advisors.
“It’s a one-stop shop for our students to ask questions,” says Adrian.
The program recently hosted a mini job fair in partnership with UFV’s Centre for Experiential and Career Education (CECE) and local employers as many of UFV’s international students are “looking for employment and career advice,” says Adrian.
This fall, STEP Café will host a welcome fair where new international students can ask questions about where to find employment, academic advising, and counselling for mental health supports.