Welcome to the prairies

A sketch of a plane landing, with a banner on top saying “Welcome to the Prairies”
When I arrived here, I really would have appreciated the heads up OpenClipart-Vectors via Pixabay, manipulated by lee lim

Prepare for the prairie life with these tips

So, you’ve packed your bags, said your goodbyes to your nears and dears, and boarded the plane to start a new life in Regina, Saskatchewan. But have you packed your list of items for an arrival start kit? If not, don’t worry, we’ve got you covered.  

Welcome to the prairies; the land of living skies, vibrant communities, and yes, challenges that might catch you off guard. From understanding the customs here to adapting to a new lifestyle, there’s a lot to take in. Bundle up, as this article aims to set new international students up for the new academic and social journeys that await them. Regina, like any other city, has its own culture, climate, and way of life. Being prepared not only reduces the stress and anxiety associated with moving into a new place but also allows one to make the most of what the city has to offer.  

Now is the ideal time to start stocking your wardrobe with winter gear. Located in Western Canada, Regina’s winter climate is markedly different from cities like Vancouver, British Columbia or Toronto, Ontario, which enjoy milder winter conditions. For instance, Regina’s average low temperature in January hovers around -20 degrees Celsius, whereas these other metropolitan cities’ lows are generally closer to 0 and -6 degrees Celsius respectively. The temperature in YQR can even drop to a bone-chilling -40 degrees Celsius. Under such harsh conditions, with blizzards and fog not uncommon, your mobile phone can freeze and become inoperable, leaving you without essential communication just when you might need it. The dry air can lead to flakiness and other dry skin-related issues. So, be sure to have your moisturizers, lip balms, and hydrating lotions as well as boots, gloves, and winter jackets with proper insulation handy to keep yourself warm. It’s a must for anyone who wants to go about their daily activities without risking their health. 

Now that you have a gist of what your first winter in Regina might look like, it’s time to draw our attention to other essentials that are vital after landing in Canada. These include obtaining your Social Insurance Number (SIN) and getting a health card. The SIN is a 9-digit number that everyone needs to have to be eligible to work in Canada or have access to government programs and benefits. It’s a confidential number that should be kept private and secure, and cannot legally be used by anyone else. Your SIN can be applied for at any Service Canada Centre; in Regina, the go-to place for application is located at 1783 Hamilton Street. The process is pretty quick, and you just need to bring original documents to prove your identity such as a passport or permanent resident card.  

You are likely to receive the SIN during your visit to the office. Moreover, once you land in Regina, getting access to your SaskHealth card is important. It is necessary to get access to health services. Health Card applications are usually processed within six to eight weeks after the application is received and you can always visit the official website of the Government of Saskatchewan to learn more details. Simply go to ehealthsask.ca to apply online or find out other related information. In the meantime, if you have to get health care services, make sure to keep hold of your receipts so that you can claim those amounts once your health card is approved. 

Wait, there’s more! You must now get your Saskatchewan Identification Card, or as we like to call it, your “Sask Id.” Think of it as your VIP pass to life in Regina. Whether you’re picking up a package at the post office to proving you’re you, it’s your identity card for everything. Forget the hassle of carrying your passport around especially since this card has got you covered. Head over to the SGI office downtown at 2260 11th Avenue to get that sorted. Once it arrives by mail, you’ll feel like a true Saskatchewanian. Also, the other life hack for students in Regina is the unlimited bus rides all semester long via the U-Pass for one flat fee. But where do you go to get this ticket to YQR’s public transit system? Look no further than the University of Regina Students’ Union (URSU). Located on the second floor in the Riddell Centre on campus, the URSU office is the spot for student life, including your U-Pass. Just hop in there with your Student ID and proof of enrolment and voila, you will be handed your U-Pass which can be activated right on the spot.  

Now, let’s not forget the reason you’re here: academics. The UofR and its Federated Colleges offer plenty of resources to familiarize yourself with the university. From ambassador leader members helping you to navigate your way to your classes on your first day, to joining like-minded individuals who share your passions in the different student clubs, and connecting with UR International which offers orientation programs, immigration advising, and social events among others, all these facilities are at your disposal to help create a new home away from home! 

Finally, as you’re set with all your essential IDs, bus pass, winter gear, and academic resources, it’s time to talk about the fun stuff: exploring Regina. On your ‘must’ list should be Wascana Lake, which offers a scenic backdrop that’s perfect for all kinds of outdoor activities. And, if you’re a history buff or just curious about the region’s natural history, the Royal Saskatchewan Museum is the place to be. From life-sized dinosaur replicas to exhibited Indigenous cultural items and history, this museum offers a fascinating glimpse into Saskatchewan.  

Next is the Saskatchewan Science Centre. With interactive exhibits and an IMAX theatre, this science centre is both educational and fun. Amidst all these, don’t forget to explore the local food scene. From farm-to-table restaurants to cozy cafes, Regina offers a variety of culinary experiences that reflect its diverse community. A special shoutout to one of my personal favorites: the Excalipurr Cat Café. Located at 2156 Albert Street, this unique café combines coffee and cats. It’s a cozy and welcoming space where you can enjoy delicious snacks all while mingling with adorable cats waiting for adoption. 

So, there you have it! From essential preparations to academic resources and must-see spots around the city, these are some of the main things you need to know to make the most of your time in Regina. The city offers a wide range of experiences that will make your student life both fulfilling and fun. If you get the itch to explore beyond Regina’s city limits, remember that Canada is vast with each province and city offering its own unique set of experiences. Go ahead and embrace the opportunities and adventures that lie in wait for you! 


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