Learning Skills Services, Student Development Centre

International Students

Welcome to Western! The Learning Skills Counsellors invite you to learn about services that can help you have the best student experience. Learning Skills Services has a friendly, professional staff who can answer questions and provide assistance as you adjust to studying in Canada and as you progress through your studies. The Student Development Centre offers many other student services such as the Writing Support Centre. For a list of upcoming events especially for international students click here.

About our Service

What is Learning Skills Services?

Most universities in Canada offer this kind of support to their students. The goal of SDC's Learning Skills Services is to make good students even better students. The counsellors answer questions and provide advice on how to be successful at Western. They help students develop new skills or strengthen existing academic skills. Students can choose from a variety of services: they can make an individual appointment with a Learning Skills Counsellor, attend learning skills presentations, drop by SDC's PAL Centre, or receive helpful information via e-mail. As well, information on important learning skills topics is available online.

Who uses this service?

Learning Skills Services is for all Western students. Each term students in all years and programs seek information and support to strengthen their skills and improve their grades. Some students want to meet with a counsellor just once, while other students want ongoing support. Students who may especially benefit from Learning Skills Services are new students making the transition from secondary school to university, international students adjusting to a new learning environment, and students facing the new demands of graduate school.

Why do students use Learning Skills Services?

There are many reasons why students use Learning Skills Services. Any questions or concerns about academic performance are appropriate. If you're unsure if we can help you, submit your concern by e-mail or come to SDC's PAL Centre in Room 4139, WSS during hours of operation. If we can't answer your question, we will direct you to someone who can. Here are some typical concerns:

  • incomplete class notes: we can teach you how to take better notes
  • low grades: we can explore with you different strategies to increase grades
  • not keeping up with readings/coursework: we can show you approaches to managing time so that you'll be better prepared for classes
  • uncertainty about how to prepare for a test: we can explain to you effective ways of remembering information and studying for test formats such as multiple-choice

What added benefit can this service offer international students?

International students may experience additional demands such as adapting to a school system that is different from the one in their home country, studying in a second language, and adjusting to a new culture far from family and friends. The Learning Skills Counsellors understand these demands and provide friendly, professional support through both individual and group services:

  • Individual Services: International students who want to meet with Learning Skills Counsellors can do so in a confidential individual appointment or in SDC's PAL Centre. Some reasons why you may want to meet with us are:
    • You're not sure what your professors expect in terms of participating in class, asking questions, or completing assignments.
    • You're not completing coursework or getting adequate sleep because you're spending so much time translating your textbooks into your first language.
    • You're having difficulty understanding course materials, or you have questions about course vocabulary.
    • You'd like the support of a friendly person to discuss learning issues as you adjust to studying at Western.
  • Group Services: Like other Western students, international students can attend the Learning Skills Presentation Series. Presentations specifically for international students, such as Reading Strategies for International Students, are also offered during the year.

Is it confidential? Is it free?

Yes, it is confidential. All information provided to the Learning Skills Counsellors is confidential. It will not be shared with family, university staff, course instructors, or others unless you provide written permission. It will not become part of your academic record at Western.

Yes, it is free. You will not be charged for services. A portion of your student fees covers the cost of these services and ensures that they are available to all students free of charge.

How do I access Learning Skills Services

This varies depending on the service you wish to access:

  • To schedule a confidential individual appointment with a Learning Skills Counsellor call 519-661-2183 or come to the Student Development Centre in Room 4100, Western Student Services Building. Appointments are 50 minutes in length.
  • You can also come to SDC's PAL Centre in Room 4139 WSS for one-on-one help with a counsellor or senior student volunteer. This is less private than an individual appointment - other students may be dropping by with questions. You do not require an appointment; you just come to the help centre during hours of operation. You can also get a list of campus help resources, term calendars, and other handouts.
  • You can register for Learning Skills presentations or get information about the schedule or topics through this website.
  • To find out how to have information on effective learning strategies sent to your e-mail address, click here.
  • Self-help learning skills books are available to read in Rm 4139, WSS. For more information, click here.

Common Learning Issues

My class has a mark for participation. What do I need to do?

Asking or answering questions are good ways to start participating in class. Saying something early in the lecture is usually easier than waiting until later. Don't be afraid to share your ideas and opinions; it gets easier with practice. Even asking about something you did not understand in a reading is viewed as a positive form of participation.

If you would like to discuss your class participation strategies, bring your course outline to SDC's PAL Centre or book an individual appointment with a professional in Learning Skills.

How can I take better notes in class?

Taking effective lecture notes is very important as the material covered in class may not always be covered in readings. If your professor provides an outline of the lecture on the course website or at the beginning of the lecture, write it in your notes. Organize your notes during class under the titles and sub-titles given. It is not necessary to write down every word that the professor says. Listen for the main point(s) under each heading and write these in your notes.

At Learning Skills Services we can show International students how to take effective lecture notes that will help them organize and learn their course material better. Students can bring their notes to SDC's PAL Centre or meet individually with a professional in Learning Skills to get ideas on how to improve the quality and effectiveness of their notes.

I have too many things to do and am behind with my course work. What should I do?

Managing a large workload is an issue for all students, but being an international student can make it even more challenging. International students whose first language is not English may need to spend extra time reading textbooks or understanding assignments. Also, they may miss home and feel that they do not have time to make new friends. For these reasons, it is important that you learn how to manage your time well. As a start, try using a calendar to record due dates and using a weekly schedule to write down the tasks that are most important to complete. Try to include some time each week for non-academic activities you enjoy, such as playing a sport or joining a club to meet new people.

Western has professional Learning Skills Counsellors who can help students create time management plans. International students can meet with a counsellor by booking an individual appointment or by going to SDC's PAL Centre.

Where can I get help with academic reading? I have a lot to read for my classes, and English is not my first language.

Academic reading is different than other types of reading, and it is useful to learn strategies which will help you identify and remember the most important information. You may not have to translate every single word, if you know what to look for. In fact, reading with some specific questions in mind will help improve your understanding and memory of the material.

For help with this strategy, contact SDC's Learning Skills Services, Room 4100 WSS. You can also register on-line for Learning Skills presentations, including one on Reading Strategies for International Students. Reading in a second language can also be improved if you practice your spoken English and increase your vocabulary, so consider participating in English conversation groups on campus.