Almost all universities and colleges have a place for First Nations students, such as McGill’s First Nations House or Concordia’s Centre for Native Education. They can ease the stress of moving far from home and dealing with academia. These places offer orientation seminars and a place to meet other Native students and get involved.

Concordia’s Centre for Native Education offers an agenda that gives advice for students in Montreal, from landlord and tenant rights, to transportation, and just settling in. “We provide a friendly environment,” said Concordia’s Manon Tremblay. “This is the student’s home away from home.”

There are computers and a library. The library was even supplied this year with $5,000 worth of books, mostly on Native topics.

First Nations House at McGill offers similar services. Many universities have specific departments for First Nations students to get adjusted and get help with resources. They can offer advice and place to meet other First Nations people.

Check out the campus websites to find information on awards and bursaries. The National Aboriginal Achievement Foundation (NAAF) offers a search for post-secondary awards programs and bursaries. Government websites can be useful, too. Indian and Northern Affairs Canada has a comprehensive database listing around 500 different scholarships, bursaries, and awards for First Nations students. The amount of bursaries and programs are too numerous to list here. But you have to apply, even if you don’t think you can get one.

Stock up on Kraft dinner and tuna because you will need it, and remember beer is a luxury. Learning to budget those stingy government dollars is all the difference between a pauper and being a squeegee kid.

For first-year students, TIME MANAGEMENT. If you don’t budget what little time you have to complete those onerous assignments there is no get-out-of-jail-free card. Aneurisms are not uncommon among first-year students deliberately procrastinating.

Coffee! Yes, if you plan to procrastinate you will need the life-imbuing manna of coffee.

Commitment to education is a cold, heartless mistress. Elucidate in a 1,200 word discourse.

On taking notes in long, long, very long, lectures. A voice recorder is handy. Getting ahead of the reading is handier so you know what the professor is getting at. Stay on top of the homework situation or even ahead. And asking questions isn’t unheard of.

Exercise. Staying healthy maintains your energy levels, and most post-secondary institutions offer a place to work out. It’s fun and a great way to burn off stress.

The library is your home away from home. Learn to use its resources and you can discover anything.

Raquel, the designer for the Nation and a recent graduate of post secondary told me, “Most importantly, be positive, be motivated, and keep your cool.” Good luck!