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Dietetics student Priscila Riciardi is nervous. She comes from Santa Catarina in Brazil, where, although temperatures can drop to zero degrees, there's never snow. "Being here for three months of winter – I'm worried for my mood," she laughed.
Fortunately, the McGill International Student Network and Chaplaincy Services are here to help. Thanks to the annual Winter Coat Drive, international students are better able to brave Montreal's frigid climes. Josee di Sano from Chaplaincy says, "Some come from Mexico, or Africa -— they've never seen snow." The concept of minus 40 with wind chill can be a little tough to grasp for someone who's lived in equatorial climes their whole life.
Last year, Chaplaincy gathered over 200 coats donated from the McGill community. Frost-hardened residents often have more coats, mitts and scarves than they need, so the Chaplaincy once again asks us to dig into our closets and pass on any lightly used winter wear to those caught unawares. Men's coats are always needed and this year, they're even able to offer jackets for students' young kids.
International students who come to pick up a coat also receive non-tangible warmth. Visitors sip juice, are told about the differences between polar fleece and wool are and given a friendly ear and a chance to meet others. Di Sano says, "We make them feel at home. This is more like a welcome centre. And we introduce them to other projects, like the McGill Student Parent Network, the choir or weekly meditation with a Buddhist monk."
On Nov. 8, Riciardi took time from her studies at Macdonald Campus to head downtown to pick up a coat. Here for just a one-year exchange, using the MISN Coat Drive makes perfect sense and she was excited to see all the sweaters, hats, gloves and coats. "There's some good stuff. Long coats, sporty coats…all kinds." Thanks to Student Services, Riciardi will be able to step out into the cold all winter long warmed by her finds.
Hours for pick up: Monday to Friday, 10 am to 4 pm. 3600 McTavish, Brown Student Services Building, Suite 4400. Please drop off coats at reception. For more information, call 514-398-4104.