Foreign students need help connecting to community

Lakehead University wants to have hundreds more Chinese students on its register by 2017, and it's sending a delegation to woo students from China as part of that effort. But some international students say getting to Thunder Bay is only half the battle.

Thunder Bay student says Lakehead University needs to help international students adapt

Pei Pei Wang moved to Canada from China four years ago to study at Lakehead University in Thunder Bay. She said it's hard to live away from the things and people she knows. (Melanie Ferrier/CBC)

Lakehead University wants to have hundreds more Chinese students on its register by 2017, and it's sending a delegation to woo students from China as part of that effort. But some international students say getting to Thunder Bay is only half the battle.

Pei Pei Wang, who has been studying at LU since 2009, said it's easy to get homesick.

“Thunder Bay isn't like Toronto, where you have China Town and can have Chinese food whenever you want,” she said. “In Thunder Bay, you even cannot get Mooncake.”

University representatives will be in China next week in an effort to get more students to come to Lakehead. Wang said she hopes the school will work at helping students adapt when they arrive.

The delegation is leaving later this month and will only have a week to visit three cities in China.

They'll encourage high school and university students to continue their education at Lakehead University.

LU vice provost Tony Williams said there's tight global competition when it comes to attracting foreign students.

"Canada is one of the big players in that,” he said. “It's currently an $8 billion ‘export’ industry for Canada, if you want to call it that."

Overcoming isolation

Students from China can pay three times more in tuition than their Canadian counterparts.

In return, student Pei Pei Wang said she's improving her English and getting a real Canadian experience.

But she's also lonely — especially during holidays.

"Everyone is back home. So, I will be by myself,” she said.

Wang said she works to overcome her sense of isolation, but said the university would be wise to find host families for foreign students during Christmas holidays.

Currently 138 Chinese students are enrolled at Lakehead University —  up from 106 last year

The target is to have 1,000 foreign students by 2017, split between the Thunder Bay and Orillia campuses. The school would like to see 30 to 40 per cent of those students come from China.

Tuition for a foreign student at Lakehead University can run from $16,500 to $24,000, while tuition for a Canadian student can be between $4,500 and $6,500.

"I think we have a fair tuition that covers the basic costs of educating our students," Williams said.

"There's good economic spinoff from these students being in the city. They spend money. They rent rooms. They are involved in tourism in the region. As the numbers grow, we hope to see more and more positive effects."


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