International Students in Canada

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Instructors want to help their international students become aware of their rights and of the services that their school offers them. After all, their presence significantly enhances our colleges and universities, benefiting domestic students as well, and contributing to the economy. Unfortunately, many international students do not realize what benefits their schools offer them. To some extent, this may be because of language barriers.

This can be a daunting experience for everyone since challenges can arise from more than just unfamiliarity with English, but especially for international students. For instance, when one of my students was sick he hesitated to see a doctor because of worry about the cost. He was stunned to learn from me that health insurance was included in his tuition fee. Thus, inaccurate assumptions can be a major obstacle, too. Therefore, it is always a good idea to advise international students to check with the university or the college regarding what is available to them.

Perhaps the most natural way to address this issue is by encouraging international students to network with their domestic and international classmates. That approach not only gives them a way into the new culture, but also nudges domestic students to see beyond stereotypes and gain a deeper understanding of international and immigration issues. Still, more direct information can also be provided.

The range of available services is so extensive that even well-meaning instructors may not be fully aware of them all:

  • Academic and Career Advisors are trained to match the unique needs of learners of all ages and experience levels. They are there to support/help students succeed. By all means, advise international students to contact one at their school.
  • Cost-free Peer Tutoring is available in some school libraries, to assist either international or domestic students in reaching their learning goals. Furthermore, Academic Drop-Ins are available to help students with academic writing, APA, time management skills, note-taking skills, assignments, etc.
  • International students have the right to have Part-Time Employment in Canada. But students need to verify how many hours per week are permitted.
  • An advisor can explain the Grants/Scholarship Funds that international students can apply for and may even help/support them in applying.
  • Some colleges/universities offer Airport Pick-up for international students, as well as school residence or help with finding a Homestay or a Rental house/room.
  • Immigration Advice for issues like visa extensions, work permits, study permits, etc.
  • There are many situations in which student might require Legal Assistance, such as with landlord negotiations or immigration advice and support. Some schools offer Free Lawyers. Click here for Ontario Student Legal Aid Societies. And for Ontario’s renters’ rights (applicable to domestic and international students alike), please visit the Ontario’s renters’ rights  site or information on help for students finding a home away from home.
  • Although international students will not be able to use OHIP, Canadian universities or colleges usually have In-house Health Centres for prescriptions and routine check-ups. Check the province you are in. Here is information on Health Insurance for International students in Ontario.
  • As a result of COVID-19, mental health has become extremely important in Canada. This may be especially relevant for international students, and they can usually find great Resources for Mental Wellness available at their school.
  • Depending on the school, if students need food and are struggling, they may qualify for a gift card for Emergency Food Assistance. Be sure to let them know they can ask their Advisor about this.
  • Similarly, their Advisor can direct them to possible sources for Emergency Loans as well.
  • And more generally, many Non-Governmental Organizations are willing to help/support international students. Here is one example:

Finally, it is a good practice for teachers to recommend early in the term that international students check out the range of Student Unions or Student Association Services that their tuition fees usually help to fund. Remind them to check the college/university website for comprehensive information just for international students. Here is an example of what the  Niagara College Student Administrative Council offers. Alternatively, you could share this blog post with your international students!

Gonul - I graduated from Brock University, with a B.A. in Sociology and a minor in Women Studies, earned a TESL Certificate and Master of Applied Linguistics (TESL). Previously, I taught ESL in China and Turkey. I have taught a variety of EAP courses at Niagara College in the School of English Language Studies since 2013. Currently working three part-time jobs: as a Peer Tutor Program Coordinator in Niagara College’s Library, a communication professor for the School of Academic and Liberal Studies, and an interpreter for Canadian Border Services. Currently, I am a volunteer with TESL Ontario (TESL Exchange Videos, Dialogues, Webinars and Blogposts). My research interests are Extensive Reading and Second Language Reading.


2 thoughts on “International Students in Canada”

  1. Great article Gönül. As a soccer coach at the college, I see the mutual benefits of International and Domestic student friendships. As an educator, it frustrates me to not see that happen as often as I would like.

    In my humble opinion, International students socializing only with their peers from the same country is a short sighted attitude. The same goes for domestic students who do not extend some level of hospitality.

    As much as formal services help students with specific issues, befriending their peers from other countries provides a type of learning and growth that cannot be replicated in the classroom. I attribute this to shyness on the part of both parties.

    At NC, we have a student branch of IEEE in the School of Technology and see the benefits of the new friendships formed.

    Keep up the good work.

    1. Frank, thank you for your insightful comment! Totally agree, that experience is so valuable, and unfortunately, they don’t realize it.
      Nevertheless, I am pleased to know Niagara College has an IEEE student branch, which is a wonderful way to promote new friendships among our Ss.

      Thank you!

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