Cultivating International Development Here and Out There

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The international population on campus may be seeing somewhat of a growth spurt in the future with the federal government’s announcement of plans to double the number of international students coming to Canada.

The announcement was made Jan. 15 by the Minister of International Trade, Ed Fast. This new international education strategy by the federal government means to increase the number of foreign students studying in Canada from 265,000 in 2012 to 450,000 by 2022. 

Reactions to the announcement have been mixed, while general opinion is that the proposal needs more planning to flesh out and substantiate its lofty goals. There have also been concerns raised about the possible displacement of Canadian students by international students. 

However, universities and colleges have demonstrated positive, if not cautious, feedback and appreciation for the proposal’s ambition. Here at UW, Virginia Young, director of outreach and engagement at the Student Success Office, said, “Having international students here is great because the world is global…just having different cultures on campus so that exchange [of ideas] happens.” 

The University of Waterloo is no stranger to international growth and development — even the motto currently occupying the UW website is “ideas that change the world.” UW itself has graduates living and working in more than 140 countries around the globe. 

Meanwhile at UW, the process of getting international students here requires the collaboration of a number of resources and departments on campus, whose purposes also include supporting them here during their time at UW.  Most prominent is Waterloo International, which is the overall strategic body of planning to foster international development on campus. For international students, the general process begins with marketing and undergraduate, recruitment where international recruitment and marketing specialists travel to high schools in various countries around the world to recruit students. The Registrar’s Office then admits students. Once a student is admitted to UW, the international student experience office reaches out to begin preparing them for the journey with things like applying for student visas, and temporary residences. 

The government’s strategy aims to diversify Canada’s student population with the intention of furthering Canada on a global scale. Fast spoke about tying Canada’s education brand abroad more closely with trade diplomacy in his announcement. 

“[The strategy will] ensure that we maximize the people-to-people ties that help Canadian workers, businesses, and world-class educational institutions achieve real success in the largest, most dynamic, and fastest-growing economies in the world,” he said 

On campus, the International Student Experience (ISE) is responsible for advising and supporting international students. In regards to support from the ISE in the case of increased students, Young said, “We’d want to make sure we had the right amount of resources in place to service an increased amount of students if that happened… there’s the sheer numbers, but it’s also about where students are coming from, and what impact that might have.”

Language, for example, is a huge transitional factor for international students. 

Having international students in Canada and at UW fosters the building of an international web of connections — shrinking the world, creating more global opportunities for both governmental initiatives, as well as the individual, if they are prepared with a proper global perspective. 

Young elaborated on why we need a global perspective: “It’s beneficial to everyone to have an understanding of the way the world works. Everything works on a global scale — research and careers here will have an impact out there. So for universities, it’s how we enhance and help students develop that while they’re here so they can take that into their careers after graduating.” 

Essentially, it becomes an issue of cultivating the mingling of cultures here at UW in order to further the larger scale connections students will invariably find when they go from here. For Young, and those part of ISE, it’s an issue that’s unique to every student, every school, and every country.

“Especially in a place like Canada where it’s so diverse, how do we make sure that exchange of ideas and that different cultural connection and observation happen more intentionally?” Young said.

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