Laura DaSilva and Katie Pedersen
Many international students are hoping to make O Canada their new national anthem.
Canada’s work opportunities and welcoming environment are encouraging foreign students to pursue permanent residency after graduation.
International student enrollment in Canada grew 84 per cent in 2013 to more than 290,000 from 159,426 in 2003, according to the Canadian Bureau for International Education.
Matthew Keefe, international student advisor at Humber College’s International Centre, said foreign students no longer have to wait six months to apply for a work permit.
“As of June first of last year, international students can work on or off campus as soon as they arrive, as long as they have a valid study permit and they’re a full time student,” he said.
Still, it seems that students struggle with the job hunt. The semester is two weeks away from ending and Humber Funeral Services student John Mutumba has only just found work.
“I failed to find any job on campus, despite many attempts I made but I then decided to just leave it until now,” he said. “A friend found me a place to work at outside school.”
Varum Dua, a Business Management student from India, said he resorted to working under the table.
“They pay $9 or sometimes $6 per hour,” he said. “I know it’s not legal but we have to work to figure out our tuition fees.”
Jerry Sun founded Instec International Inc. to help visiting students in the Hamilton area find room and board, and connect them to resources in the community.
“I recruit ESL teachers for students who want to learn English, and help students extend their study permits and entry visas,” he said.
Sun said he sees more and more international students wanting to stay in Canada after they finish their studies.
“The high school students I deal (with) often have the primary goal of attending college or university in Ontario,” he said. “After university, over half of them choose to stay in Canada.”
“Usually students who can’t find a job here or want to work for a family business are the ones who tend to move back to their home country,” said Sun.
The Canadian Bureau for International Education reported in 2009 the presence of international students created more than 83,000 jobs, but Sun said many of his clients have a hard time finding gainful employment in Ontario.
“Even local students who graduate face challenges after graduation. It’s hard to get a job, especially a good job. For international students it’s even more challenging because of the language barrier and lack of networking opportunities,” said Sun.
Humber Law Clerk student Manpreet Kaur said it is difficult being separated from her relatives. Mutumba agrees, but hopes to gain permanent residency so he can bring over his girlfriend and their three-year-old daughter.
“The biggest challenge for me is that I’m living here alone,” said Kaur. “There is a lot of difference between India and Canada (but) I think that everything is awesome here.”
Mutumba said his intention would be to stay in Canada, despite not having any family or friends here.
“It is a world where sincerity exists. Everyone is honest. I find that much different than the way it is back home,” he said.
The Government of Canada helps international students find work after graduation for up to three years through the Post Graduate Work Permit Program.
Students with some Canadian work experience have a higher chance of qualifying for permanent residency.
Keefe said immigration agents in other countries recommend Humber to prospective international students based on the quality of programming, and unique opportunities to gain work experience while studying.
“Each school at Humber helps international students find work after graduation,” he said. “A lot of the programs have co-ops and internships.”
Keefe and the advising team at Humber’s International Centre help foreign students integrate into the community.
“If students have questions, we route them to the right departments like counseling, HSF, or peer tutoring,” he said. “We do trips and take students around Ontario.”
Mutumba said he chose Humber because of the services available to students.
“I wouldn’t mind going anywhere as long as my program is there,” he said. “I got very good responses from my program coordinator and the International Centre. They were very responsive to my mail.”
International students make up eight per cent of the post-secondary population in Canada, according to CBIE.
Keefe said approximately 3000 international students attend Humber each year, accounting for 15 per cent of the student body.