How international students help the local community

How international students help the local community

< Back to Articles | Topics: Trends | Contributors: Iven He, For You Newcomer Counselling Agency Inc | Published: September 2, 2022

On a sunny afternoon in Halifax, you can usually see university campuses crowded with students — including a large number of international students that come to Halifax each year. The universities in Halifax host more than 12,000 international students at any given time. At lunchtime, these students often cram into Halifax restaurants and crowd onto park lawns. Local schools like Saint Mary’s University, Dalhousie University, Mount Saint Vincent University, and the Nova Scotia College of Art and Design attract plenty of foreign students who come to seek higher education and gain work experience here after graduating.

These foreign students bring many economic and cultural benefits to Halifax and have a huge economic influence on local businesses like property companies, restaurants, and shopping centers. Many international students set up their own businesses, and by doing so introduce various cultural characteristics to the local community and create new job opportunities. Restaurants, bubble teahouses, and niche shops operated by international graduates in downtown Halifax attract many locals to visit.

However, sometimes international students are a vulnerable group — especially those who have left home for the first time. When these young students arrive in a different country with a different social environment, it is hard for them to adapt to their new surroundings. During the pandemic, as many of the local universities cancelled in-person classes, many foreign students still chose to travel to Halifax, where they struggled with quarantine policies, academic pressures, and the housing crisis.

Finding suitable accommodations is a headache for most students, but especially for international students who lack important resources (like social networks, references, and North American credit) to help establish themselves in a new community. As the vacancy rate in Halifax is only one percent, many international students stay at a hotel for weeks while they search for an apartment. This can be extremely costly and stressful.

Fortunately, local community members offer a helping hand to these vulnerable students and help them contact local developers and renters. One such example is Lei Wang, who was an international student at Saint Mary’s University. Wang now works for a language school that has helped more than 50 foreign students apply for apartments this year.

Local organizations such as ISANS and For You Newcomer also help international students connect with local communities and resources. The picture above shows a group of Chinese students, with the Residential Leasing Manager from Southwest Properties, participating in a Chinese New Year celebration organized by For You Newcomer before the pandemic. Many international students are likely to work and live in Halifax when they graduate, and in turn, they will help new international students discover Halifax.

It is important that international students have the help and resources they need. By showing our support for these students, we can help improve Halifax as a community overall.

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< Back to Articles | Topics: Trends

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