Winter coat drives help keep financially-strapped international students warm
These universities are helping international students save money with winter coat drive programmes. Source: Shutterstock

International students may struggle with high tuition fees when studying abroad, but there’s also the additional costs of purchasing expensive winter wear when studying in chilly climates, especially for those who come from warmer countries.

But winter coat drives in universities are helping financially-strapped international students save money by providing them with free winter attire.

Under this initiative, students, and in some instances, the public, can donate clean winter wear that’s in good condition for international students to borrow. These items are typically returned once students no longer need them.

According to CBC, Cape Breton University, located in Nova Scotia, Canada, launched a winter coat drive for international students who are not used to the province’s bitter cold temperatures, which can drop to -30 degrees celsius.

CBU’s Diversity and Human Rights Officer, Scott Thomas, said there are many students who can’t afford proper winter wear and that they have already helped some students secure jackets, including those who live off-campus.

“Many of the students rely on public transportation, standing and waiting for a bus can be pretty cold,” he told CBC, adding that the ‘Welcome to Winter Coat Drive’ donation boxes were set up around campus and at Walmart stores within the municipality.

Among the items people have been asked to donate are winter gloves, scarves and hats.

Winter coat drives are not only initiated by universities.

At Queen’s University in Kingston, Ontario, Heather Poechman started the Queen’s Winter Coat Exchange programme, which provides free and anonymous winter items for students and Kingston community members, in 2016.

According to the university’s student-run publication, The Journal, Poechman was in her fourth year of her undergraduate degree when she started the exchange.

“I wanted to find a way to make (the) adjustment to Canadian climate a little easier for international students,” she said.

International students may drop hundreds of dollars on winter wear they will only use for a short duration, which makes the winter coat drive appealing for students. Source: Shutterstock

Her experience working abroad in Morocco for a year made her realise that the Canadian climate was a perceived barrier to potential international students; rather than spend several hundred dollars on winter wear that would only be worn over a short period during their studies abroad, the exchange helps international students save this money instead.

From its humble beginnings, the inventory grew, largely thanks to student donations. Now, students can simply walk in and take whatever they need for free.

Students can choose from coat racks and shelves of hats, scarves, mittens and winter boots to keep them warm.

“Some people come in while I’m not there and leave coats while others take them,” said Poechman. “I had a student who, with their mother over the Christmas break, knitted scarves and hats to add to the room.”

Similar programmes can also be found in other schools and universities, including McGill University, among others.

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