Foreign students often need more supports

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They come from dozens of countries — 127 at Western University, and 75 at Fanshawe College — and number in the thousands.

Young people from abroad make up a growing segment of London’s 50,000-strong post-secondary student population.

Often new to Canada, with London their first exposure to the country, international students arrive with many of the same needs as their Canadian counterparts, but there can be big differences.

While your average student new to London might be fine with a quick tour of the city and the lowdown on things like the transit system, those coming from other countries may need a wider range of supports to start.

At Western, there’s an entire network — Western International — to help newcomers from other countries adjust to life inside and outside the classroom.

The office works to give international students whatever support they need — from immigration help, to English language support, social events and even seminars on healthy eating, said Ashley Kewayosh Samuel, the internationalization programming co-ordinator.

“From my experience working in the international exchange student centre, they have a lot of questions,” Kewayosh Samuel said.

She said many of the students have trouble making friends or dealing with culture shock and homesickness. To help, the centre contacts them before they even get here with tips and important information. The centre also helps students find housing during the summer, on and off campus.

Last year, Western had about 4,300 international students. Fanshawe expects about 3,800 this year.

Fanshawe has many programs to help ease the transition for newcomers, said Saurabh Malhotra, the college’s manager of international recruitment and market development.

One, he said, is Fanshawe Cares. It offers rides to the college from the airport where greeters meet arriving students, a shuttle to take them places like banks to open accounts and help to find housing.

New this year, international and domestic students have a combined orientation day on campus.

“We feel the biggest service we should offer them is integration,” Malhotra said. “It’s about the experience.”

Students from abroad have long been a feature of Canadian campus life, valued for their diversity and outside perspective.

They also pay significantly higher fees than Canadians to go to school here.

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