In a 2009 study, “Attracting and Retaining Immigrants to Newfoundland and Labrador: Voices from the Newcomers and International Students”, only 13% of International students stated that they planned to stay in Newfoundland upon graduation. Their reasons for leaving included the perception of better job opportunities elsewhere, a lack of multicultural environment, isolation, and a lack of support.
Internationalization in Newfoundland and Labrador means not only getting people here, but keeping them here. During the past eight (8) years, Memorial has more than doubled the number of International Students on campus. Internationalization, however, does not stop at recruitment. Understanding the needs of International Students, and providing supports and services which help ease the transition and ensure a positive academic and social environment, is essential. Both the university and the province are relying on Internationalization. For the University, it means filling the gap which has been created as fewer domestic students come to Memorial. Furthermore, it increases the revenue and the scope of Memorial, worldwide. For the Province, International students have the potential to contribute to population growth and help fill the need for skilled workers. All of these needs, however, are contingent on International Students having a positive experience at Memorial, and staying for the duration of their degree, as well as after their degree.
With this in mind, it is beneficial not only to International Students, but also to the Province and the university, that there be a focus on strengthening the International Student Experience. Strengthening the International Student Experience must happen in a multitude of ways:
- Strengthening Communication: Memorial University needs to be explicit in terms of housing costs, price and access to multicultural foods, as well as ESL requirements and program durations. It is essential that Memorial is honest, and effectively communicates the barriers and challenges that International Students might face, before they arrive to Memorial.
- ESL Supports and Services: While effective communication might help prepare students for the pre-enrollment ESL requirements, it is essential that ESL supports are part of International Students’ entire university experience. The Writing Centre, for example, should be given increased resources in an effort to hire more staff members and train the existing staff to be able to effectively accommodate and support ESL writers.
- Social Integration as a Campus-Wide Responsibility: Feeling connected and integrated to the Memorial community is essential to creating a positive International Student experience. This must to be a campus-wide effort. First, there needs to be a greater emphasis on communicating the benefits of having a diverse, and multicultural campus and province. Next, there needs to be training in place to increase the inter-cultural competency of staff, faculty, and students. Furthermore, there must be more resources, partnerships and funding associated with the International Student Advising (ISA), in an effort to continue to provide and develop programming that brings together international and domestic students.