New Brunswick’s universities are welcoming more than 20 guidance counsellors from around the world this week in an effort to attract international students to the province.

Administrators from the University of New Brunswick and St. Thomas University hope to convince them to send students from abroad to their campuses.

Ryan Sullivan, the director of recruitment with St. Thomas University and organizer of the tour, said international students are important to universities in New Brunswick because fewer local students are attending schools in the province.

He also said they bring a new cultural perspective that is valuable to Canadian students on campus.

"It brings diversity to the classroom, which adds to our Canadian students' experience," Sullivan said. "Learning from students of different socio-economic backgrounds and different cultural experiences adds to the conversation, to the debate and to the participation in the classroom."

They also pay about double the tuition of local students. 

The projected cost for the tour is about $60,000 and 85 per cent is being funded by the provincial government. The rest of the cost is being split between the University of New Brunswick and St. Thomas University.

When the counsellors are not touring campuses, they'll learn more about the Canadian admissions process and student services.

Rwandan man returns to Canada

There are 12 countries represented in the group of counsellors including Honduras, Jordan and Tanzania.

Martin Rusanga, a school administrator from Rwanda, was once an international student at Lakehead University in Thunder Bay, Ont. Now, he's checking out university options for his students in Kigali.

Rusanga said he didn't know much about what to expect when he moved to the Canada and said the experience was challenging.

"What was tough was the culture shock," he said. "New weather. New food. Different people. All that was different from where we come from, but over time I got used to it."

Rusanga describes his experience in Canada as invaluable. He said the education he got helped him start his own school in Kigali called Nu-Vision High School.

He's hoping to make connections in New Brunswick that will help him assist his graduates to develop their careers.

"Right now our school is rated as one of the best in the country," he said. "So parents are wondering, 'What next when our kids complete grade 12?' Hopefully we can have students come to Canada and give back to their community."

Overcoming culture shock

Natalia Silchenko, an international student at the University of New Brunswick, moved to the province from Dubai a couple of years ago.

She chose Fredericton over bigger cities, such as Toronto and Vancouver, because of the quiet atmosphere. Yet even though she had support, she admits it was challenging to start a new life.

"It was very difficult to figure out how everything works, how everything goes here — like where to get my social insurance number," she said. "There was a time when I had to think twice about taking a bus and going to get my groceries."

When she graduates, Silchenko plans to stay in the province. She said settling into Canada just took time. "You have to get used to it," she said. "Don't be afraid to talk and ask as many questions as you want."

More than 9,000 international students attended university in New Brunswick last year.