Recently, U of T published the International Strategic Plan 2022-2027, which proposes ways to improve programs and activities offered by the university to international students. The plan also goes over unique strategies towards internationalization and places emphasis on programs involving collaboration and partnerships, particularly with the global south.
On January 9, 2023, U of T hosted the second of four virtual panels that discussed the plan.
Professor Alexie Tcheuyap, the associate vice-president and vice-provost of international student experience at U of T, presented various initiatives to ensure that international students flourish at all three campuses. He discussed the significant financial support allocated to international students, reporting that, “In [2022-2023], we dedicated over $53 million towards international scholar awards.”
Professor Tcheuyap stipulated that the plan includes initiatives to improve global learning opportunities for international students, such as increasing the number of learning abroad scholarships. “We would like for 40 per cent of undergraduate students [to] be engaged in at least one learning abroad experience before they graduate by 2027,” he stated.
The plan also encourages international students’ involvement in paid work positions to support skills development, hoping to raise participation rates from 2.9 per cent in 2022 to 6 per cent in 2027. Professor Tcheuyap accounted for the low participation rates by explaining that few students are aware of such work opportunities. International entrepreneurship exchange programs are also included in the planned initiatives.
Continuing, David Coen, vice dean international at the Faculty of Social Sciences, University College London, emphasized the need for “pre-arrival support and early intervention,” for incoming international students, “from mental health and wellbeing to understanding how the university operates.” He discussed the importance of monitoring and mentoring students, such as through hosting webinars, to address international students’ concerns.
During the panel discussion, Thaisa Tylinksi Sant’Ana, a fourth-year biotechnology specialist student at the University of Toronto Mississauga, shared her personal experiences and pointers to succeeding as an international student. Sant’Ana defined international student success as, “striving for academic, personal and professional development while also being able to build a support system that will help you navigate life in a foreign country.”
She contended that the most challenging time for students is the transition into university, declaring that international students face challenges in navigating university life while simultaneously adapting to live in a “country that is not your home.”
“Being international is [not] simply defined by your immigration status and the tuition fees that you are paying,” stated Sant’Ana. She noted that some students who are new to Canada fall outside such criteria. As such, she put forth that U of T should “broaden the understanding of being international” and ensure that there is an integration of resources to support students from various places around the globe.
According to Professor Sandy Welsh, vice-provost of students at U of T, research has shown that international students and domestic students living on campus residence have a stronger sense of belonging at U of T, which contributes to their academic success. “Across our three campuses we are focused on building our on-campus residence capacity,” said Professor Welsh. This enables more students, including upper years, to enjoy the residence experience.
Professor Welsh further postulated that “international students face unique additional stressors to all of the other stressors related to mental health,” such as the lack of family support, financial burdens, fear of future, and fear of losing their visa or their status in their home country.
Katherine Beaumont, senior director of global learning at U of T, contended that “helping students understand the campus and student experience at U of T” is essential to fostering continued international student success, echoing the importance of integrating international student services.
Both the International Strategic Plan and the webinar highlight the initiatives that U of T is currently taking and will implement, culminating in a future that guarantees international students an inclusive environment where they are welcomed and provided with the tools to succeed.
Staff Writer (Volume 49) — Angelina Jaya Siew is currently in her first year at UTM, seeking to specialize in Criminology, Law and Society and minor in French. After completing her secondary education in Trinidad and recently moving to Canada, she started writing for The Medium as a way to to highlight important global issues and encourage debate on controversial topics. When Angelina is not writing or studying, she is reading the latest mystery novel, travelling to different countries, or getting her almond milk vanilla latte at Starbucks.