As colleges and universities return to in-person instruction, lessons learned from online learning implemented during the pandemic have revealed particular insights to support international students studying in Canada.
Over the past 10 years, the internationalization of Canadian higher education has exploded. Academics and the mainstream media have noted how universities and colleges are increasingly relying on international student enrollment to fill budget gaps and create new growth for the institution. But the arrival of this new student body has also highlighted the unique challenges that international students face once they arrive in our country, such as job exploitation, culture shock, housing insecurity and food insecurity.
Uyoyo Dapo-Ajao is a Nigerian student completing her business communications degree program at an Ontario college. I (Christin) first met Uyoyo in the spring of 2021 when she took two of my writing and communication classes for her program. I immediately recognized the precarious position that Uyoyo inhabited. Over the past year, I have watched her overcome barriers related to housing, food, and work while trying to complete her education.
I’ll let Uyoyo share a bit of his experience:
“I had the privilege of growing up in a small community in southern Nigeria among men and women who had been to school and who put school first. My mother retired as a primary school principal and my father retired as a secondary school principal, so going to school was not optional for me.
After obtaining my first degree in biochemistry, I started my career in the sales department of a pharmaceutical company. I advanced to Sales Manager and had the opportunity to travel to seven countries on business. I knew there was more to life as I grew in age, career, family and spirit, so I was willing to pay the price to become a better version of myself- even and position my family for greater prospects. After careful consideration and research, I decided to take a leap of faith and study in Canada, settle down and raise my children in a safe environment.
In June 2021, I arrived in Canada to start my studies in a Canadian college. Meanwhile, my school had switched to virtual learning to continue delivering classes during the pandemic. Although many international students believe that tuition fees should have been reduced because the school was not held in person, this has not happened, despite student requests. However, distance learning has provided a surprisingly smooth transition to a new country and a new way of life. It gave me the opportunity to observe, witness and embrace Canadian culture, which is very respectful, diverse and patient. The pandemic has also enabled remote work. The combination of remote work and remote school has helped me save money as it has allowed me to find accommodation where rental costs are more affordable – away from and off campus. from the city. Additionally, online education and work has reduced transportation costs between school and work.
Given the popularity of remote operations in response to the pandemic, colleges and universities should provide more options and opportunities for all students to participate in a more permanent hybrid classroom. They could also take the initiative to ask the government to allow international students to work more than the current 20 hours per week under our study permits. As a result, students would be better able to contribute to the labor force, which is currently in high demand, and earn more money. This money is not just for us – as international students we have dependents at home. I frequently send money from my meager earnings in Canada to my home country to help meet the expenses of children, family members and friends whom I have helped financially in the past and who are truly in need.
This spring, the institution of Uyoyo announced that it was time to return to in-person learning, an understandable decision. However, I saw the balance shift for Uyoyo, and the delicately aligned struts that supported her tenuous existence here as a student on a visa slipped away. She now has to get to school using public transport, which takes her about an hour each way. This means that she can no longer perform her shifts remotely. She sent her schedule to her employers and asked them to book shifts around her class and commute times, but that wasn’t always successful. This in turn impacted his ability to meet his financial obligations and from there the dominoes keep falling.
Unfortunately, the Uyoyo experience is the rule and not the exception for international students seeking a pathway to citizenship through Canadian education. While these students represent a huge financial boon to the colleges and universities that enroll them, once they get here, they need a unique iteration of social support and academic assistance. Much like the impact of open enrollment in the 1960s on American higher education, internationalization is requiring Canadian higher education to adjust systems and standards to better respond to this new body of students who arrive in our classrooms.
The adjustments made to education during the pandemic offer a surprising solution to the main economic and academic difficulties faced by international students. By adopting a hybrid or low-residency model for programs with large numbers of international students, colleges and universities would offer these students the opportunity to find reasonable housing outside of urban hotspots, better balance work schedules work and school and waive transportation costs. These simple accommodations could go a long way to correcting the ethical imbalance imposed on international students who arrive eager to learn and contribute to their new communities, but who are nevertheless vulnerable.
As colleges and universities continue to take stock of everything they’ve learned about pedagogy, educational policy, and educational supports during the pandemic, they should reflect on how these lessons inform student education. international. By paying attention to the gains that international students have made through online learning and seeking to incorporate these benefits for future learning, colleges and universities will help welcome these uniquely vulnerable students who give so much financially and academically to their establishments.