Like money is important

Neglecting international students is bad. It sucks for our school’s reputation and our country’s reputation. It’s also not nice. I plan on visiting other countries, for school or travel purposes, and I would like a bit of help when I’m lost and can’t speak the language and have no friends.

CSU Senate member Ghazal Tohidi has an idea: “I think there should be special funding for cultural tours to less developed countries. Education [of other cultures] should start before University.” Some benefits of experiencing other cultures would be that “students would at a young age be able to experience how warmly other cultures welcome guests to their country.”

Speaking with some international students, this warmth may be missing here in our school, and others across Canada. Why? “Even when you visit the USA, they ask you ‘Where are you from?’ and say ‘Welcome to America!’. When in China [as a student from Canada], we were treated like celebrities!” Ghazal said.

I don’t know if we treat our international students well or not. “Most international students aren’t even known in their classes or introduced. The school has some programs in place, but our country [as a whole] does not.” What is the reason for this? Are no longer perpetually the friendliest country ever? Apparently, we got a little tired of that. Maybe we are multi-cultured out. But this got me thinking – maybe we should refocus our efforts.

International students provide insight to other cultures besides ours. This plays a major part in how we view people different from us. Let’s not be all foam and no beer, a multi-cultural metropolis of culturally-closed mindedness. We have a reputation in Canada as being a pretty friendly place where everyone makes a home. Unless you’re Aboriginal, you came from somewhere else too not that long ago. If you travel a lot, you know how nice it is to have the locals warm up to you. Want to go to Japan? Make friends with a Japanese student here. You can network all over the world through your classmates. Make this work for you as well as them.

For those of you who aren’t yet convinced that we should perhaps pay more attention to international students, let’s talk business. International students boost our country’s and school’s economy. Ask an international student how much it costs for tuition here. A recent study done by Statistics Canada shows that we now make more money off international student tuition than we do from some of our natural resources. According to this study,  “After bringing in $6.5 billion last year, Canada’s education export now tops the regular revenue the country gains from exporting certain natural resources, such as coal, which normally accounts for $6.07 billion per year.”

The benefits keep coming, as 65,000 jobs in the education services industry were directly supported last year, by the funds generated by international students. In addition, there are 6.5 centillion indirect benefits that come into play as well: the students have to live somewhere, buy books, buy food, and many of them travel around Canada as well, bolstering the tourism industry.

Don’t just assume, like I first did, that the International Student Departments of schools are taking care of all this for us. They might be awesome or they might be doing the bare minimum. It’s in the school’s (and by extension our own) best interest to take care of international students because it makes money. Making friends with an international student isn’t just for their benefit alone, it can be ours too.

//Shaun McPherson

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