Dal boosting service for international students

Changes being made to accomodate 21% increase in international student enrollment since last year

Photo by Amber Nicholson

With the steady increase of international student enrolment at Dalhousie University, the International Student Services and Exchange program has had to make several changes. The number of international students attending Dalhousie this year has risen to 1,420 from last year’s 1,168, resulting in a 21 per cent increase.

“We have a significant increase this year. International students now make up nine per cent of the overall student body,” said Lynn MacDonald, associate registrar at Dalhousie.

The international students office has had to make a number of changes over the past few years to accommodate this demand, including introducing the International Student Peer Buddy program. This program allows local students to volunteer their time to help international students make the transition to a Canadian university.

“It not only helps international students feel more welcome at Dalhousie, but it also gives local students, who may be interested in participating in an exchange, the opportunity to learn about another country and culture,” said Teresa Inacio, International Student Advisor.

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International Student and Exhance Services office is located in the Killam Library at Dalhousie University. Photo by Amber Nicholson.

Local students are also getting involved through the English as a Second Language program. Inancio said there has been a dramatic increase in the number of students volunteering their time as tutors and coaches of the ESL program.

Steps to improve service for international students

Inacio has recently been appointed the second International Student Advisor at Dalhousie to help with the increase in international students.

“Staff increases and arrangements are being made to the International Student and Exchange Services to help reduce wait times in our office,” said Margaret Wood, head International Student Advisor.

With the increase in international enrolment it is the goal of the program to meet with students no longer than a week after their request, said Inacio. To do so, they offer one-on-one academic advising and also hold weekly information sessions.

Libby McCarthy, a fourth-year Dalhousie student from Portland, Maine, says, "The information sessions definitely help simplify the sometimes complicated and confusing immigration processes international students need to go through."

Further changes being made at Dalhousie include the revamping of the International Student and Exchange Services website.

“The website will be more user friendly and will walk students through the steps from preparing to come to Dalhousie all the way through until they are graduated,” said Wood.

They hope to launch the renewed site by January 2010.

Wood says just a couple of years ago students had to send their applications via mail that took weeks to arrive at Dalhousie.

“Students now have the opportunity to apply online and we receive their application instantly,” said Wood.

McCarthy said the online application worked fine and she says the website was also helpful when she was applying for her off-campus work permit.

"It is really useful to help guide you through the process of applying for various documents."

Why does the increase matter?

Margaret Wood believes international students bring richness to the university. “Having a variety of different perspectives in a classroom can only enhance learning. Our university has the opportunity to make Nova Scotia a more diverse province in future generations.”

Inacio sees the benefits from both sides. “It also gives the international student an opportunity to be an ambassador for their country.”

McCarthy agrees with Inacio.

She says students should definitely take advantage of the opportunity to study in another country.

"Not only does it help you understand other cultures better, it gives you the opportunity to appreciate your home country while being able to look at it critically from another viewpoint."

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