Once upon a time in the not so distant past, international students would be asked one question: Why? Why choose Newfoundland and Labrador, of all places, to attend university? Who would choose this cold, rugged and isolated corner of Canada? A corner that for many years had been perceived as a wasteland lacking in opportunities.
Now, it is quite the opposite. Long gone is the bewilderment of eager individuals who call the province home. Instead, they’ve become a cornerstone of our community, a demographic embraced and admired by many who give us some of the brightest minds and most inspiring stories. Nearly 4,000 international students have chosen to study at Memorial University in either of the two campuses across the province. Remarkably, those 4,000 students represent more than 110 countries.
In a province of just over half a million people, it’s not hard to notice the impact these students have made here. Many have stayed and flourished; setting down roots and helping their new home thrive. They’ve enriched us with their culture and heritage by giving us an opportunity to enjoy the beauty of diversity. The Newfoundland culture is a unique one often filled with pride, yet somehow a fusion between it and cultures from around the world is, in a word, magical.
When I talk to international students, the stories often follow a similar path of excitement and apprehension. It always starts with researching schools in Canada, most dreaming of the large, regal schools on the mainland, but then coming across Newfoundland and Memorial University. Then two things generally capture their interest: the astounding beauty one sees with a simple image search of Memorial, and the tuition costs, which are relatively affordable compared to other schools in the country.
Newfoundland’s booming international student population means that no matter where you call home, there are friends waiting for you here.
However, this is also when apprehensions kick in. The thought of moving across the world is of course nerve-wracking enough but amplified when that place is a desolate, rocky island. The expectation of loneliness is absolutely understandable. Many fear they won’t be able to find a place to fit in, to get that sense of home that is so dearly needed in what will be one of the most vulnerable times of their lives.
They are always surprised to find the opposite, however. Newfoundland’s booming international student population means that no matter where you call home, there are friends waiting for you here. We have acquired representation from countless countries and that representation continues to grow. But it’s not just within the culture groups where bonds are formed. International students also find a second family here that becomes almost as close to them as their own back home. I’m often told by international students that the hospitality found in Newfoundland is unmatched anywhere in the world and often the perfect cure for the initial homesickness. It is one of the main reasons they are thrilled to call Newfoundland home.
Many students have found permanent homes and rewarding careers in the province. We want them to not only come to learn, but to flourish and put their endless potential to work here.
Students have other concerns when making such a massive move, of course. For some, education is much less valuable when not paired with hands-on experience gained on the job, as well as the opportunity to network and meet people. Students I spoke to also expressed enthusiasm about this, with many gaining rewarding experience in their respective fields and establishing themselves as future leaders. One student told me that the size of the province bodes well for career development as the tight-knit nature of the community allows employees to quickly establish and grow a network. Opportunities in healthcare, technology, engineering, ocean sciences and more are abundant here, with Newfoundland and Labrador establishing itself as a global leader in these fields and Memorial University a main support behind this growth.
Many students have found permanent homes and rewarding careers in the province. We want them to not only come to learn, but to flourish and put their endless potential to work here. In an effort to make this happen, the province recently announced a plan to retain students after graduation. With an ambitious goal to increase net migration to 2,500 new Newfoundlanders and Labradorians per year by 2022, support systems for educated individuals who want a life here are plentiful and ready to be put to use.
Our people, our schools, our government and more have their arms wide open to immigrants. Many international students can attest to this as they are the ones who have come here, flourished, found a home and given us the privilege of enjoying everything they bring to this beautiful province. I always find it so inspiring hearing the stories of these students, to make their acquaintance and to see them, too, become Newfoundlanders with their own unique flair. International students see endless potential in Newfoundland and Labrador, and we see endless potential in them.