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Vol 38  No 14
May 18, 2006



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Door opens for international students seeking work

By Jeff Green

On a recent visit to Memorial, Ben Yang,
director of the International Student Centre at the University of Toronto, applauded the federal government’s legislation. (Photo by Chris Hammond)

Searching for a summer job has gotten a whole lot easier for Memorial University of Newfoundland’s international students.

New federal legislation announced April 27 by Monte Solberg, minister of Citizenship and Immigration, allows foreign students studying in Canada to apply for off-campus work permits effective immediately. Under the new rules, students can work full-time during the summer months and up to 20 hours during the school year.

That news is critical to helping attract and retain international students to post-secondary institutions such as Memorial University, said Sonja Knutson, international student programmer with the International Student Advising Office in St. John’s. She said after years of campaigning for the legislation, international students can now apply for off-campus jobs as early as this summer.

She said prior to yesterday’s announcement, foreign students, who are studying full-time, could only apply for on-campus position. They did not need a permit to work on-campus.

Ms. Knutson said Memorial’s international population is delighted by the announcement. “Having the choice to work is important and certainly being able to work in the summer, like all other Canadian students will be helpful for student finances,” she said. “This news is critical to all aspects of attracting and retaining international students and helping them to choose to make Newfoundland their home after they graduate.”

Foreign students contribute roughly $4 billion a year to Canada’s economy. According to the federal government, there are about 100,000 foreign students in Canada who could be eligible for work permits under the Off-Campus Work Permit Program.

These students help enrich university life at post-secondary institutions, said Dr. Lilly Walker, Memorial’s dean of student affairs and services.

“Memorial has been enriched by the diversity of perspectives and knowledge our international students bring to our campuses,” she said. “This legislation change provides these students with the opportunity to share their talents and educational experience within our province.”

Memorial has about 900 international students.

Ottawa’s new changes came on the same day that Memorial’s Division of Student Affairs and Services welcomed Ben Yang, director of the International Student Centre at the University of Toronto, to its St. John’s campus. He applauded the federal government’s legislation and said it will allow international students to integrate themselves into the cities they’re studying in.

“It opens up more opportunities for them to gain more meaningful experience which was limited before,” he said. “And, it’ll be a bit of a financial relief.”

Dr. Walker said allowing international students to work off campus will help in Memorial’s recruitment efforts. The university’s Office of Student Recruitment is currently focused on a number of countries throughout the world including China, India, Belize and the other countries.

“This program may allow some of these students to remain within our province, establish roots and become apart of our communities,” Dr. Walker added.

Canadian post-secondary institutions need to continue raising awareness among their faculty and staff about the challenges facing international students studying in this country.

That was one of the key messages Ben Yang, director of the International Student Centre at the University of Toronto, delivered during a three-day visit to Memorial University’s St. John’s campus late last month organized by the Division of Student Affairs and Services.

Although international students are receiving “solid support” at institutions such as Memorial, universities and colleges need to know that foreign students face specific needs, said Mr. Yang.

“In general terms the challenge we all face is that we maybe don’t have quite enough experience about what the students are going through. We need to raise awareness and learn more and how to help them,” he said in an interview with the Gazette.

Mr. Yang delivered a special lecture while at Memorial focused on the changing nature and needs of Chinese students at post-secondary institutions in Canada. He suggested strategies on how to help these students adapt and participate in campus life.

He said there are a variety of issues facing international students studying in Canada ranging from finding a place to live in a new country and registering for university or college to simply communicating with people.

“I think the main message for me is to understand a student’s context,” he said. “I find that when our educators understand the social, cultural, historical, linguistic challenges facing these students, it gives them a much brighter insight in terms of engaging a student, in terms of understanding students and knowing where they are coming from.”

Coinciding with Mr. Yang’s visit, Students Affairs and Services’ professional development committee also organized various sessions geared towards assisting faculty and staff who work with international students. Mr. Yang presented during those meetings as well.


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