When people ask about my story, they ask how did a girl from Belize, one of the warmest and most beautiful countries in Central America, end up in Corner Brook, Newfoundland and Labrador, one of the coldest parts of Canada? Well the short answer is I was looking for a change – boy, did I find it! Studying in another country brings a different perspective of the world, education, employment and career choices. But when you arrive in Canada, what drives you to do more, be more, want more, take more and have more? How to ensure you are making the most of your time in the Canadian educational system?
In March 2016, Minister John McCallum told CBC News that “International students are the best source of immigrants, in the sense that they’re educated, they’re young, they speak English or French, they know something about the country.” International students bring a lot to the Canadian workforce and it is the responsibility of institutions to foster and allow that “asset” to grow. At the 2015 CBIE Atlantic Regional Meeting, Nannette Ripmeester, founder and director of Expertise in Labour Mobility, presented “Best Practices in Communicating the Value of Global Expertise.” A key part that stuck with me was that employers are looking for employees who are “culturally sensitive, tolerant, emotionally stable, have excellent communication skills, social skills, perseverance and resilience”.
As an international student in Canada, how do you develop the kind of global experiences employers are seeking? My advice as a former international student and a current international educator is to:
- Take advantage of on-campus supports – learning and career centres, engagement offices, research offices. These departments can help you succeed academically as well as career-wise.
- Participate in on-campus programming! Orientation, mentorship and cultural diversity programs and student government positions are great ways to participate and volunteer, building valuable leadership skills.
- Find a job! You’ll gain Canadian work experience and build the competencies sought by today’s employers.
- Volunteer! It may prove difficult for you to land that first job. Volunteering is an alternate way to get your “foot in the door”.
- Join off-campus groups such as clubs, societies and religious groups. Building relationships outside the university may connect you with potential employers.
It’s important for you to jump in and embrace your environment – it will help you make the most of your stay and prepare you for potential immigration and future career. The experiences you encounter through your studies are applicable in any environment these days, thanks to our global economy. Start thinking about how your experience studying in a Canadian institution can help you build the skills and competencies you need for future employment.
Shanda Williams is the Student Programming Coordinator (International) and Regulated Canadian Immigration Consultant (RCIC) working at Grenfell Campus, Memorial University of Newfoundland. Originally from Belize, Shanda has lived and worked in Corner Brook, Newfoundland for the past 13 years.