Success Coaching

Moving to a new country can be exciting, but it can also leave you feeling overwhelmed and uncertain. How do you find a place to live? Are there local customs you might not be aware of? Our success coaching services and resources are designed to give you answers so you feel confident and ready to explore McMaster.

Adjusting to life at McMaster

When you’re getting settled as a new McMaster student, there are a number of issues you need to get sorted before you can start pursuing your goals for success. Some of these issues include housing, transportation, food and dining and language support.

Applying for residence

Residence provides housing and meal plans for undergraduate students. Applications for residence must be submitted online through Housing and Conference Services before the deadline in June. Applications that are received after the deadline will be automatically be placed on the waiting list. Before applying, please read through the Housing and Conference Services’ Living at McMaster website. Find information about residence life, important dates and how to apply.

If your application is approved, you must submit a $600 CAD residence deposit online using a credit card (Mastercard, Visa or American Express) in order to reserve your space.

Meal plans are mandatory for students living in residence. Students living in traditional residences must purchase a full meal plan. Students who are placed in Bates or Mary E. Keyes residence may select either a full or reduced meal plan.

Special accommodation requests

If you require accommodations due to a medical, religious, learning or dietary reason, you must indicate this on your residence application — i.e. answer “yes” to the question, “Do you require special accommodation?”

Winter holidays

If you’re unable to leave residence or travel home for the winter break holiday, you can stay in residence for this period for an additional cost. Please indicate on your residence application under the December Break section that you would like to apply for this option.

If you don’t indicate on your residence application that you need to stay during the December break, you’ll be responsible for leaving residence by 12:00 p.m. the day after your last December exam. You don’ have to take all your belongings at this time, but you won’t be allowed back into the building until the re-open date in January.

Mac Off-Campus Housing

You can find affordable student housing options that are still close to campus. To help you search for off-campus housing, check out the Mac Off-Campus Housing website for student rental listings.

M.I.X. marketplace

You can also explore rentals and sublets through the McMaster International and Exchange (M.I.X.) Club’s student marketplace on Facebook. The group is open to all students to post advertisements and wanted ads for textbooks, bicycles, furniture, housing and more!

Note: The M.I.X. marketplace is open to the wider McMaster community and not monitored by our staff. You should use discretion when posting or replying to advertisements. Follow the same guidelines you would in any other online community.

City bus

Hamilton Street Railway (HSR) buses will take you to almost any place in Hamilton. All full-time undergraduate and graduate students (except for MBA students) receive an HSR bus pass for the academic year as part of their student fees.

GO transit

Government of Ontario (GO) buses travel between Hamilton’s surrounding cities every day. The route starts and stops at the bus terminal, and there are several pickup points along King Street in Hamilton. These pickup points are marked by green GO bus signs.

Taxis, Uber and ride-hailing services

There are several local taxi and ride-hailing services you can use to get around. Prices for these services vary.

  • Blue Cab Telephone: (905) 525-2583
  • Yellow Cab Telephone: (905) 522-3535
  • Hamilton Cab: (905) 777-7777
  • Uber
  • Lyft

Driving in Ontario

Are you considering buying a car or bringing one with you to Ontario? Having a car is convenient, but there are also some things you should consider before making a decision.

  • Vehicle permits and plates: If you bring a car into Ontario, you are required to obtain a vehicle permit and Ontario plates after 30 days. Importing a car from overseas is very difficult and not recommended. If you would still like to import a vehicle, visit the Customs and Immigration website for details.
  • Costs and insurance: Aside from the cost of the car itself, you will need to buy insurance. Before buying a car, find a company that will insure you and determine what it will cost.
  • Parking: If parking is available where you live (not always the case), there will probably be an additional charge. Temporary parking in Hamilton and Toronto can be expensive. Parking on campus is restricted to designated areas and can be costly.
  • Driver’s license: If you plan to drive in Ontario, you must obtain an Ontario driver’s license. If you already have a license from another country or an international driver’s license, you may use this for up to 60 days before you get an Ontario license.

Need more information?

Hospitality services

Hospitality Services offers a wide variety of dining locations on campus with reasonable prices. You can choose from pizza, pasta, salad bars, deli bars, fresh fruit, vegetarian entrees, Chinese food, Mexican food, baked goods, snack food and more. Hospitality Services also offers an off-campus meal plan for students who don’t live in residence. The meal-plan system is flexible and easy to use. The dollar value of your meal is deducted from your meal-plan account just by showing your student ID card. Visit the Hospitality Services website for meal plan information.

If you want to grab a drink or socialize with friends, here are two popular campus spots:

  • TwelvEighty Bar & Grill is a popular on-campus restaurant and bar that’s operated by the McMaster Student Union (MSU).
  • Pheonix Bar and Grill is another popular on-campus pub, which is operated by the Graduates Student Association (GSA).

Off-campus restaurants

Downtown Hamilton has a thriving restaurant scene. Many new and diverse restaurants can be found along James St. North in downtown Hamilton. Westdale Village, which is a short distance from campus, has lots of great restaurants and cafes as well.

The legal drinking age in Ontario is 19 years of age, and valid photo ID is required to purchase alcoholic beverages. Prices vary from one place to another. It’s customary to leave a 10–15% tip for good service at bars and restaurants.

Grocery stores

If you live off campus and cook for yourself, there are many supermarkets and smaller grocery stores in the area. Here are some reliable choices:

  • Farmer’s Market: Located downtown, this fresh-food market is open four days per week, with many vendors selling specialties from culinary cultures around the world.
  • Nations Fresh Food: This is an affordable multi-cultural grocery chain located in downtown Hamilton.
  • Food Basics: This is your closest grocery store to campus. It has a good variety of affordable foods.
  • Fortinos: This large grocery chain can be a bit more expensive, but it has a wide variety of grocery and hot food options.

If you’re an undergraduate or graduate student seeking English language support, the McMaster Office for the Development of English Language Learners (MODEL) is a free service that can help you develop get comfortable with the English language.

English-language training and workshops

Get English-language support from experts who are certified in English as a second language (ESL) and English for academic purposes (EAP). MODEL offers workshops on the following subjects:

  • Writing, speaking, reading and listening
  • Interacting with students, instructors and teaching assistants (TAs)
  • Understanding assignments, studying and taking tests
  • Adjusting to Canadian culture and dealing with culture/language-induced stress and anxiety

One-on-one advising

Check in with a student advisor who has ESL and counselling training to discuss your personal, social and academic concerns.

Language assessments

Take a language assessment to learn how you can improve, figure out what type of support would benefit you and create a customized action plan.

Academic advisors (Faculty-specific)

Faculty academic advisors can help address your academic concerns and provide support with program and course requirements and more. Connect with an advisor from your Faculty to get support that’s catered to your academic program.

McMaster libraries

In addition to offering study spaces, the libraries at McMaster offer a number of services and programs for students. Learn about the four libraries at McMaster and how they can help you with your learning and research.

Student Wellness Centre (SWC)

The Student Wellness Centre is the place on campus to address your wellness needs. If you need personal support, SWC offers a range of counselling options, medical services and wellness programs.

Student Accessibility Services (SAS)

SAS can connect you with accommodations if you experience barriers that get in the way of your success at McMaster. Some of the barriers that SAS can address include:

  • Physical disabilities and mobility limitations
  • Neurological and learning disabilities, ADHD
  • Mental health issues
  • Chronic medical conditions
  • Sensory issues such as blindness, deafness and hearing impairment

School of Graduate Studies

If you’re a grad student, check in with the School of Graduate Studies to gather information, explore services and receive guidance. Whether you are at the beginning time at McMaster, nearing the end or somewhere in between, the School of Graduate Studies can support your graduate journey.

Want to explore more campus supports?

Life in Hamilton and Canadian culture

Getting adjusted to your new country, city and neighbourhood can take time. It usually helps to do research about the local customs, laws, and other location-specific information. Check out this section for helpful information that can help you familiarize yourself with Canadian culture and life in Hamilton.

Arrival time

In Canada, it’s customary to arrive on time for social engagements and hangouts. It’s best to call ahead if you think you might be more than 15 minutes late. For appointments such as a doctor’s or university appointment, you’re expected to arrive exactly on time.

Using first names

In Canada, first names are more commonly used than in many other countries. If you and your new acquaintance are approximately the same age, you can use first names after you’re introduced.


Tips generally act as a reward for good service at restaurants, bars, hotels and so on. It’s expected to tip servers, taxi drivers, hairdressers and other services approximately 10–15% of the total bill prior to taxes. If you’re unsure how much to tip, ask a friend for advice.

Nightclubs, bars and lounges

There are many types of venues for entertainment, food, drinks and dancing in Canada. In order to legally enter a venue that serves, you might be asked for identification that proves you are over the drinking age of 19 years old. In Ontario, you must be at least 19 years old to buy or consume alcohol.


It’s hard to generalize about dating in Canada, because different regions and different ethnic and religious groups have their own customs. Everyone the right to set their own limits. Someone who agrees to go on a date with you is not consenting to sexual intercourse. Everyone has the right to say no.

McMaster University is committed to taking action to prevent and respond to all forms of sexual and gender-based violence. To get support or give support, visit McMaster’s Sexual Violence Prevention and Response Office (SVPRO).

Personal standards

It’s important for you to make note of the current customs, but it’s also important to keep your own standard of values. For instance, if religious beliefs or personal training prevents you from eating certain foods or from drinking alcoholic beverages, you should not be embarrassed to explain that to others.

Hamilton is like many cities throughout the world where you must be sensible about your personal safety. It’s also wise to become familiar with your new neighbourhood. This way you can judge for yourself what is safe and what is not.

In general, you should avoid:

  • Carrying large sums of money
  • Walking alone after dark
  • Dark and concealed areas
  • Leaving your apartment door unlocked
  • Permitting anyone you don’t know to enter your home


If you’re experiencing an emergency and need help, call 911 to get connected with urgent support from first responders (i.e., paramedics, police, firefighters).


Unfortunately, international students sometimes become victims of scams. The best way to avoid these scams is to get informed. Be smart and stay safe! View this webinar recording to learn from Hamilton Police Services, Fraud Prevention, Crime Stoppers and McMaster Security.

Campus Security Services

If you need support on campus, or if you would like to report a crime, contact Campus Security Services.

Student Walk Home Attendant Team (SWHAT)

The Student Walk Home Attendant Team (SWHAT) is a volunteer service within the McMaster Students Union. No matter the weather, SWHAT volunteers can walk or bus with you to your destination while providing safety and company.

There are laws in Canada that may be different from your home country. Here are some general laws you should know.

Drugs and alcohol

Both possession of and trafficking in restricted drugs are illegal and can be subject to heavy fines, imprisonment, deportation and so on. It’s illegal in Canada to drive while under the influence of drugs and alcohol. This is because of the tremendous risk to your own safety, and that of innocent bystanders.

Additionally, it’s against the law to:

  • Carry open liquor (in a car or out in public).
  • Consume alcohol or drugs (including cannabis) in a public place (other than licensed premises such as bars).
  • Give alcohol or cannabis to minors (people under 19 years of age).
  • Behave in a disorderly manner while drinking in licensed premises.
  • Refuse to take a breathalyzer test, which measures the content of alcohol in your system.


Discrimination against a person for reason of race, skin colour, sex or religion is illegal in Canada. Denial of services, facilities or accommodation on the grounds of racial or other prejudices is illegal and the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, as well as the Human Rights Code Amendment Act protect people from discrimination.

The Constitution Act of 1982 includes a Charter of Rights and Freedoms. As a visitor to this country, you are protected by this Charter in the same way as a Canadian citizen. The following fundamental freedoms are guaranteed to anyone residing in Canada:

  • Freedom of conscience and religion
  • Freedom of thought, belief, opinion and expression, including freedom of the press and other media of communication
  • Freedom of peaceful assembly
  • Freedom of association


Every person has a right to be free from a sexual solicitation or advance made by a person in a position to confer, grant or deny a benefit or advancement to the person where the person making the solicitation or advance knows or ought reasonably to know that it is unwelcome.

A reprisal or a threat of reprisal for the rejection of a sexual solicitation or advance where the reprisal is made or threatened by a person in a position to confer, grant or deny a benefit or advancement to the person (Employment Law)-(1991 – Rel.2).

The services offered by the Human Rights and Equity Services are available to the entire McMaster community — students, staff and faculty. The overall goal is to create an environment where everyone can learn, work, teach or live in an atmosphere free from all forms of harassment and discrimination.

Postal services

There are post offices and postal boxes located throughout Hamilton. Post offices are generally open Monday through Saturday. There is no mail delivery on Saturdays and Sundays. If you need to mail documents such as your passport or special forms, send them by registered mail so that they can be traced if lost.

Phone communication

If you would like to purchase a cell phone (mobile phone), there are many local providers to choose from. You can search for cell phone providers online or visit Jackson Square, a local mall in downtown Hamilton, to explore your options.

You can use coin-operated telephones any time of day. The charge is 50 cents for a local call, which is returned if the line is busy or if there is no answer. Phone lines and phones can be rented for a monthly fee plus installation charge. Check the phone book for long-distance rates.

Long-distance calls

While local calls are inexpensive, long-distance calls can be very expensive. Rates vary by time of day, with long-distance rates being significantly cheaper after 6:00 p.m. and particularly after 11:00 p.m. You must dial directly to access these discount rates. Rates can also be cheaper between Saturday and Sunday. Canadians usually try to place calls during the less expensive or “off-peak” hours. Consult the telephone directory or operator for specific information.

Computer labs

There are currently four computing labs on campus:

  • Burke Science Building (BSB 240-245)
  • Kenneth Taylor Hall (KTH B110, B111,B121,B123)
  • John Hodgins Engineering (JHE 233A, 234)
  • Arthur Bourns Building (ABB 166)

Students from all faculties have access to these computer labs. Instructors get first priority in booking rooms for a class or tutorial. When the rooms are not booked, students can use the workstations to do coursework using course software, work on papers or email. The computing labs provide draft-quality printing (from a line printer) at no charge, and high-quality laser printing for a minimum fee per page.

Get personalized support

What does success mean to you? Whatever it is, we can help you get there. Meet with us to overcome barriers and get connected with valuable information, resources and services so you can thrive at McMaster.

What is success coaching?

Success coaching is different for everyone — because not everyone’s idea of success is the same. Everyone has different perspectives, goals and interests. To put it simply, success coaching is flexible one-on-one support that can help you address any issues you might have.

Book a one-on-one appointment to help you:

  • Find housing
  • Learn about Canadian culture, customs and traditions
  • Overcome loneliness and connect with other students
  • Understand your academic requirements
  • Explore campus resources, services, clubs and more
  • Get support with goal-setting

To browse appointment types, go to OSCARplus > Student Success Centre > Appointments.

The iCent app is your all-in-one support tool for international undergraduate students at McMaster. All new and returning international undergraduate students are required to sign up for app. Signing up for the app ensures that we have the proper information to support you as you transition to life at McMaster, including travel and quarantine.

  1. Download the iCent app (available at the Apple Store and Google Play Store). If you’re unable to download the app, visit the iCent web version.
  2. Select “Canada” as your institution country.
  3. Select “McMaster Undergrad Programs” as your institution name.
  4. Follow the “email and PIN” button.
  5. Enter your McMaster ( email ID. You will receive an email with a secured PIN to log in.
  6. Enter the secured PIN and go to “continue.”

International and Exchange Student Experience FAQ

I’m fully registered for UHIP, but I haven’t received my card. What do I need to do?

Check your McMaster inbox, including your junk and spam folders, for an email from Sun Life. If you checked, and the email is not there, go to your Sun Life online account and print your UHIP card. If you don’t have an account and did not receive your UHIP card, you can email Randa Salih ( Please make sure to include your student number in the email.

Where can I find the UHIP claim form?

How do I add or remove dependants (spouse or children) to/from my UHIP?

To add or remove dependants to/from the UHIP plan, email Randa Salih ( with the following information:

  • Your student number
  • Your dependant’s passport photo page
  • Your dependant’s flight itinerary that shows either the arrival or departure to/from Ontario

How can I book an appointment with the International and Exchange Student Experience (IESE) team?

Log in to OSCARplus using your MacID. Then, click on Student Success Centre > Appointments >  International Student Services > Book by Appointment Type. Then, choose who you would like to meet with and select an open time slot.

I have some personal and academic concerns. Who can I chat with from International and Exchange Student Experience (IESE) team?

You can book an appointment on OSCARplus. Log in to OSCARplus using your MacID. Then, click on Student Success Centre > Appointments >  International Student Services > Book by Appointment Type. Then, choose who you would like to meet with and select an open time slot.

How can I apply for the International Student Work Program (ISWO)?

You can apply for the International Student Work Program (ISWO) through the university’s award platform, AwardSpring. For general inquiries on the International Student Work Program (ISWO), contact Andrea Gyamfi (

Who can help me with immigration documents (study permit, post-graduation work permit, working in Canada, etc.)?

You can start by searching for information on our Immigration Advising page. If you need case-specific support, you can book a one-on-one online appointment with our immigration consultant, Anthony Cheah, on OSCARplus. Log in to OSCARplus using your MacID.  Then, click on Student Success Centre > Appointments >  International Student Services > Book by Appointment Type > Immigration. Then, select the topic that is most relevant to your questions.