By Saifullah Muhammad,
Every year, the country – and the community of Kitchener-Waterloo – benefit from the arrival of thousands of international students from around the world.
For the most part the relationship is mutually beneficial. Canadian educational institutions benefit financially and culturally from international students coming to study here, and many students also get the academic and cross-cultural experience they have left home for.
However, the price of getting a Canadian education for some students can be more costly than many of them expect.
Given the immense benefit these students – and future contributors to the labour market – bring, more should be done to help support them while they are here and in their quest to find work in Canada.
According to the University of Waterloo Facebook page, there are more than 62,000 new students this fall going to the University of Waterloo, Wilfrid Laurier University and Conestoga College.
According to Anita Couto, the manager of international strategic enrolment at Conestoga College, 7,000 international students are studying this fall across all Conestoga campuses in a variety of programs, both full-time and part-time.
Canada, too, has welcomed a huge international student population this year.
New data from the Canadian Bureau for International Education (CBIE) shows the number of international students in Canada reached a total of 494,525 by the end of 2017 in all levels of study. This represents a 17 per cent increase over the previous year, and a 34 per cent increase between 2014 and 2017.
Many of these students have come from China, India and South Korea.
International students contribute approximately $15.5 billion to Canada’s economy, which supports 170,000 Canadian jobs.
In return, some international students say they could benefit from additional resources and support.
In a recent story on Spoke News, two international students who attend Conestoga College spoke about the unique challenges they face such as tuition increases, shortages of available housing, timely transportation, scholarships and jobs after graduation.
One student who spoke to the online news site said he was struggling to find housing and felt stretched by the high cost of transit.
International students have access to all the same services as all other students such as counseling and employment services.
But as newcomers, they could benefit from extra support when it comes to housing, transportation and the opportunity to work during and after their studies.
Upon completion of their studies, many go on to obtain post-graduate work permits, which allow them to apply their education in the Canadian labour market.
A growing number of international students intend to apply for permanent residence in Canada and eventually, Canadian citizenship.
They are statistically proven to be among the best candidates for immigration due to their high levels of quality education which is recognized by Canadian companies, and their experience working and living in Canada – which speeds up the integration process.
But oftentimes, students are unclear of their options post-graduation.
Thus, more could also be done to build awareness amongst international students about Canada’s immigration pathways and inform students about cost-effective settlement supports to facilitate their integration process after their studies. Without additional supports, Canada could risk losing both the students and its reputation abroad.