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The immigration solution

Keeping international students in N.L. is to everyone's benefit

special feature: Future NL

Part of a special feature focusing on how the Memorial community is contributing to the direction of Newfoundland and Labrador.

By Melanie Callahan

It’s no secret: the demographic projections for Newfoundland and Labrador are bleak.

Fewer babies are being born in the province than ever before, and the population is aging faster than anywhere else in the country. A group at Grenfell Campus thinks the path to the future of this province extends beyond our geographic boundaries.

Melissa Halford, English as a second language co-ordinator, and Patrick Arsenault, international student programming co-ordinator, work closely with international students and are part of Grenfell’s internationalization working group.

In their roles, they see Grenfell’s international student population as an untapped source of growth and innovation for the province.

But they can’t do it alone.

A group of Japanese students celebrate their culture during a multicultural event on campus.
Photo: Lori Lee Pike

Thankfully, immigrants have more supports in place in Corner Brook than ever before. In addition to staff like Ms. Halford and Mr. Arsenault, new community resources are now available to students following graduation.

Welcome NL, ConnectorNL and the Association of New Canadians have all recently set up offices in the city and can provide help international students transition to non-student citizens.

Grenfell alumna Nicole Ivany is a project co-ordinator with Welcome NL, whose office is housed on campus. Welcome NL is primarily about building broader community support and organizational capacity for welcoming newcomers.

Successful immigration is about improving quality of life and helping new residents be happy in their new homes — not just finding a place to live and figuring out how to pay the bills.

Immigrants as entrepreneurs

Both the provincial and federal governments have identified immigration as a strategy for provincial growth.

Priority must be given to international students in terms of residency, says Ms. Halford. Their early experiences as students are of great benefit to immigrants if they choose to reside here following graduation.

“Students come here and do four or five years university, they know what they are signing up for if they choose to stay,” she said.

From left are Melissa Halford, Patrick Arsenault and Nicole Ivany, who work with international students on campus.
Photo: Lori Lee Pike

“They know the nuances of living in Newfoundland and Labrador — the climate, the distance from the mainland. All of the early settlement needs — finding a worship space, identifying with people that have similar interests, knowing how to pay your bills — have already been taken care of as students.”

Changes to provincial laws, including changes to legislation to allow non-residents start businesses and the Provincial Nominee program that makes immigration easier for Memorial graduates, are providing even more motivation for graduates to stay and begin to build their lives and careers.

“People might say, ‘There are no jobs. Why are we inviting these people to stay?’ That‘s why we need to rely on immigrant-based entrepreneurship,” said Ms. Halford.

Some students have international connections, an advantage not necessarily available to domestic students.

The benefits of diversity

Diversity is valuable, not only for the richness it provides to our culture, but for the contribution it make to society.

“There is a ton of research that shows that whenever you are trying to solve a problem in a group, a diverse group will produce a much more creative and successful outcome thanks to the diversity of knowledge and experiences at play,” said Mr. Arsenault.

“Our province is facing a crisis. If we have a diverse population trying to solve the province’s problems, we can look at it differently and find innovative solutions.”

Ms. Halford and her family often host international students at their home to both help them establish a life in N.L. and to teach her children the value of diversity.
Photo: Submitted

He points out that a student who chooses to study in Newfoundland and Labrador may likely be invested in the province and committed to improving life here.

“International students really care about the success of our province,” said Mr. Arsenault. “They have sacrificed everything to be here. They left their homes and families behind, likely going into debt. They really care. They aren’t here to use us, they came here because they want to contribute. They want to make a life here, and they are so involved and so invested.”

Becoming an international student in Canada isn’t easy. It’s an arduous and tedious process that requires patience, attention to detail and commitment.

And, as the team points out, these qualities are just what the province needs to point the sail of Newfoundland and Labrador’s economy in the right direction.

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