With over 105 countries represented in its student population for 2015-16, the University of Saskatchewan recognizes the value of its international students and aims to continually improve their overall experience away from home.
The fall enrollment numbers were officially released on Tuesday, Sept. 8 and 2,238 international students are enrolled in fall term classes at the U of S. Making up 8.8 per cent of the student population, the university acknowledges the need to support their transition by providing a variety of services.
According to Derek Tannis, manager of the International Student and Study Abroad Centre, the U of S takes an integrated approach when it comes to its programs and services. All student centres are open to international students and services are available across campus, though there remain several opportunities unique to the international student experience.
“ISSAC, along with the College of Graduate Studies and Research office, offer special services in terms of pre-arrival and arrival support; for example the soft landing program that we provide to all international students who are new to the U of S students includes a free taxi ride and free hotel for their first night,” Tannis said.
Saskatchewan has a lot to offer international students, according to Tannis, from lifestyle to job opportunities. He argues that the province’s economy is particularly attractive to students looking to study in Canada.
Recruiting and retaining international students, however, also benefits domestic students and the entire campus community.
“For students who are on campus who have come from Northern Saskatchewan or another part of the province, or even from Saskatoon, and haven’t really had a chance to learn about how things are done in other parts of the world, they don’t have to go anywhere because the world has come to them,” Tannis said.
Kumkum Azad, a biology graduate student, came to the U of S from Bangladesh in May 2013 and speaks of the difficulty in transitioning to a new country, city and school.
“Honestly, when I moved here it was horrible, cultural shock, language shock, everything. I think it happens for everyone,” Azad said. “But when my classes started, and I started my TA in September, these interactions made me much more comfortable.”
Jebunnessa Chapola, a doctoral student in women’s, gender and sexualities studies at the U of S, is also from Bangladesh and did not hesitate to become actively engaged within the community.
“If you want to be a successful professional, you have to be connected with your own community. If you want to build up your nation, you have to be connected with your community first. First family, community, then nation,” Chapola said.
Although the top two countries with a presence on campus are China and Nigeria, there are over 150 students from India, over 90 students from Iran and between 30-80 from Bangladesh, United States, Ghana, Vietnam, South Korea and Saudi Arabia.
“There is a real opportunity to open up and ask questions and open one’s eyes to how things are done in other parts of the world and make friendships that are really unique for the rest of their lives,” Tannis said.
There are many ways that students can get involved in internationalization through ISSAC or the Global Connections Network, which is co-ordinated by ISSAC and the U of S Students’ Union and is a group of associations that are involved with internationalization. There are also several intercultural and cultural student groups, but the key is to get involved.
International students can break down the barriers they face by making use of all the resources that the university has to offer.
Chapola has studied in Bangladesh, Sweden, Norway and the United States and insists that the U of S is a leading institution.
“The resources on campus and also off campus, these are all unique, I have not seen those before. The main barrier is that the U of S offers less scholarships. That would be my main critique. The way that the culture has developed here to help out students, not only international students, it is a wonderful university. I love it.”
Images: Stephanie Mah/Production Manager