Nataliya Tarkhov moved to Canada from Israel to pursue a two-year Business Administration Marketing study program at New Brunswick Community College after her parents encouraged her to join them in the city of Fredericton, the capital of the Atlantic Canada province of New Brunswick.
“As a province, New Brunswick has a lot more to do to develop and I feel like I can help with that. Someday I would like to start a business here,” Nataliya told Canada Study News.
Nataliya is one of the approximately 25,000 international students holding study permits in Atlantic Canada, which is comprised of four provinces: New Brunswick, Prince Edward Island, Nova Scotia and Newfoundland and Labrador.
Earlier this year, a report released by the Council of Ministers of Education and Training (CAMET), a regional body that unites Atlantic Canada’s four education ministers, revealed that international students studying at Atlantic universities and community colleges contribute nearly $795 million to the Atlantic economy every year.
Candela Bosco Suarez, a citizen of Argentina who is studying neuroscience at Nova Scotia’s Dalhousie University, says attending university in Canada is worth the expense.
“If you are an international student, you are obviously bringing in a lot of money to the country…but you are also gaining freedom and safety,” she said.
The CAMET report details that the total spending for international students at universities and colleges in Atlantic Canada is $478 million.
However, the government’s interest in attracting and retaining international students to Atlantic Canada goes beyond their economic contribution during their time as students.
“[International students] are keeping universities afloat as domestic enrollment plummets; they are a major part of the regional economy; and they are a prime source of the immigration needed to thwart the region,” says a report published by the Public Policy Forum.
Parliament’s Standing Committee on Citizenship and Immigration has also recognized that international students are the best source of new immigrants in recommendations made last year to the Government of Canada.
The two recommendations touched on the need to expand work programs and settlement services to help international students find meaningful long-term employment in the region after graduation.
“Most international students come to Canada with the intention to stay,” Candela said. “When I get my degree here and begin working here then it’s a pretty solid indication that I want to stay here.”
Finding employment is key to retaining students in the region
While Nataliya is hoping to enter the workforce after obtaining her diploma in Business Administration-Marketing, Candela is hoping to delay working until she’s completed medical school.
“It would be ideal if I can get my permanent residency right after I finish my university degree instead of having to work for a year before being able to apply for med school,” Candela told Canada Study News.
While it is not the case for all medical schools in Canada, admission to the Dalhousie Faculty of Medicine undergraduate MD program requires applicants to have Canadian citizenship or Canadian permanent resident status.
According to the CAMET report, 42 per cent of surveyed international graduates in Atlantic Canada expressed a desire to stay and work upon graduation, while some plan to further their studies.
Nataliya is currently working while studying and would like to continue to work after graduation. While she has the option of applying for the Post-Graduation Work Permit Program, she plans to apply for permanent resident status instead.
Her plan is to apply for the Atlantic Immigration Pilot’s International Graduate Program, which would fast-track her for permanent residence is she can demonstrate language proficiency, Canadian educational experience in Atlantic Canada, and a one-year full-time job offer from a designated Atlantic Canada employer.
The CAMET report also says ‘suitable employment’ is a top priority for many international students looking for work in the region.
To address that concern, the Government of Canada announced this year that it was expanding the Study and Stay program, which began as a pilot in Nova Scotia, to other provinces in the Atlantic Region.
“Most international students are worried about integration and being able to interact with other Canadians,”Candela says. “For me it was important to put myself out there and get involved in various activities outside of my comfort zone.”
The Study and Stay program’s objectives as a regional initiative will go beyond recruiting international students in jobs related to their field of study to facilitating the integration and settlement of international students into their local Atlantic Canada communities.
Big city living is not my thing
In assessing retention rates in Atlantic Canada, the CAMET study reveals that the majority of respondents would rather stay in Atlantic Canada than search for employment in other, more populous regions of Canada.
Candela says she hopes to stay in Halifax.
“I am from a small town in a rural area in Argentina and I like freedom and space,” she says. “When you move to a bigger city, you are thinking like everyone who wants to compete for more money.”
“I think competition is good but you can’t be competing with people for the rest of your life … in a small city you can have a better quality of life.”
For Nataliya lower tuition costs were an attractive factor when deciding on a study program in New Brunswick.
In most cases, universities and community colleges in Canada charge different international student tuition rates.
While tuition fees vary by school and province, on average tuition fees in Atlantic Canada for international students are relatively lower in comparison to other popular study destination provinces like Ontario and British Columbia. This is especially true when looking at the average tuition range for undergraduate university programs.
Candela describes an education in Canada a life-changing opportunity.
“For many international students studying in Canada is more of a privilege rather than a luxury.”
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