By Kiernan Green
International students go up against several imposing challenges when it comes to getting settled in Canada, according to a report released in October.
The report by Ryerson’s Center for Immigration and Settlement (RCIS) is called Assessing Canada’s Support of International Students. It says that the complexity of Canada’s immigration policies, a lack of connection opportunities and insufficient supports at universities across the country make life in Canada harder for international students during and after university.
A lack of understanding from domestic students doesn’t help the issue either, the report stated.
International students at Ryerson
Ryerson has 43,000 undergraduate and graduate students, representing over 146 countries. As of the Fall 2017 academic term, 1,588 undergraduate and 297 graduate international students are enrolled at the university according to Ryerson’s University Planning Office.
Yun Kyng Woo, an international student advisor at Ryerson’s International Student Support center, agrees that the complexity of Canada’s immigration procedure is an unneeded headache for international students.
The report outlines specific practices in the immigration process, such as the tight 90-day window to apply for a Post-Graduate Work Permit (PGWP) and the access to documents needed to successfully apply.
“It’s a student’s responsibility to maintain their legal status. Most of the students, they are responsible for the problem,” said Woo. “Proper documents, proper civic permits, is really up to them.”
Those documents include proof of identity, financial support, passport images and an immigration document. Students also have to fill out applications to formally extend their time in Canada and allow immigration and border services to share their information with other branches of government.
Some papers and forms can be nearly impossible to get a hold of or to fill out, depending on the student’s country of origin, said Woo.
PGWPs are required for any international student who wants to stay and work in Canada after graduating. International students can work on or off campus if they have a study permit–which is required to study in Canada anyway.
Only students with a full-time course load can work, not students studying part-time, explained Woo.
Lack of resources to help international students
The report said that the primary sources for help for most are the internet, or friends who have gone through the same. This means that there’s a serious “lack of accurate information about the immigration policies” available to those going through the process.
Tri-Mentoring facilitator Maricruz Rodriguez said making connections are key for international students.
“If [international students] don’t know anybody here in this country, it’s hard for them to build any contacts, especially with domestic students,” she said.
Woo said that one-third of international students will not make a single domestic friend in their years at university.
“International students do want to make connections with domestic students but sometimes feel shy or feel embarrassed because of their accents, or maybe they don’t understand the slang, or they don’t feel welcome by domestic students,” said Rodriguez. “That may prevent them from making connections because they feel a little bit embarrassed or shy.”
According to the report, “there are inconsistency and lack of qualification and resources in service delivery by international student offices across institutions in Canada.”
One-third of international students will not make a single domestic friend in their four years at university
Ryerson services such as International Student Services (ISS) and Tri-Mentoring are meant to fill those roles for international students–providing supporting with completing immigration processes and making connections in school.
Both Woo and Rodriguez think there are areas where their offices can be improved for the sake of international students and to improve the issues addressed in the report.
There are currently only two international student advisors for the about 2,000 international students who access ISS, said Woo.
“We have lots of international students coming from all over the world. So I feel like we need to have more resources, like human capital.”
Woo worked at George Brown college’s international student services until November 2017. After being at Ryerson for a year, Woo said that Ryerson could take after George Brown by further integrating their admissions, registration and international student support offices.
Rodriguez said it would be a good idea for Ryerson to involve supports like Tri-Mentoring and ISS in their start of the year orientations.
“Usually, [Ryerson] focuses a lot on the academic side of things: what are [students] going to get out of the program, what are the classes that they’re going to take, what kind of job they’re going to have after graduation, but the supports are very important,” she said.
Only two international student advisors for the about 2,000 international students who access International Student Services (ISS)
She said there are many questions Ryerson should answer for students, like “who are the staff that are actually going to support them to reach whatever goals they have for the next four years? Why is it important that you have a mentor? Why is it important that you volunteer your time? Why is it important to make connections?”
“Nothing is easy in terms of the international student perspective,” said Woo.
Rodriguez said that it’s important that domestic students keep an open mind when connecting with international students, and not to undermine the struggles that are inherent to their experience.
A previous version of this article incorrectly stated that Ryerson has 43,000 international students and that “about 3,000 international students access” International Student Services. The Eyeopener regrets this error.