Nfld. & Labrador

MUN has long way to go to help international students: report

A new report says Memorial University has much to do to improve campus life for international students, despite the school's long-term strategy to attract more students from other countries.
A new report says Memorial University has a long way to go to improve campus conditions for international students. (CBC)

A new report says Memorial University has a long way to go to improve campus life for international students, despite the school's long-term strategy to attract more students from other countries.

Anik Rahman, a student at Memorial University in St. John's, says he struggled with missing his family in Bangladesh when he first came to Newfoundland and Labrador. (CBC)
International students dream of coming to study at the university, but the dream quickly turns sour because Memorial doesn't have proper supports in place, according to the report.

One in 10 undergrad students at Memorial is an international student; in graduate studies, it is one in four.

Anik Rahman, from Bangladesh, said getting into residence was vital and helped him cope with being homesick.


"I think the biggest challenge I faced was leaving family behind. I think everybody does face that challenge," he said.

"You are coming from completely different parts of the world and it's very important for you to be on campus rather than most of the domestic students because they're already familiar with the environment, weather and society."

Rahman added the best way to get international students to want to stay is getting them more involved in community activities to establish closer relationships.

David Philpott, a faculty member at Memorial University and co-author of the report, said the university needs to make it feel more like a happy home rather than temporary accommodations, in order to entice more international students to stick around.

"These people say they spent five years living and studying in the most friendly place on earth, yet when they leave they have no lasting relationships, which is disappointing to hear," said Philpott.

67 recommendations

Philpott and co-author Karen Kennedy made 67 recommendations in the report to deal with the challenges international students face on a regular basis.

"Many of these people, their families in their home countries are scraping and saving and the extended family is supporting them in continuing their education and it's a huge pressure on them," said Philpott.

David Philpott, co-author of the study, says international students are some of the biggest users of the campus food bank because they spend more money on housing. (CBC)
He said international students have to pay for extra foundation courses in English and math, leaving less money for food and housing.

He noted foreign students are the heaviest users of the food bank on the St. John's campus.

Kennedy said the university has much work to do to relieve some of the strain on the students.

"Things like accessibility to housing; how can we improve their ability to socially integrate, not only at the university but in the outside community?" she said.

"We need to be able to step up our supports for these students when they get here."

Bigger repercussions for bad experiences

Noreen Golfman, the dean of graduate studies at Memorial University, said news of bad experiences from international students spreads fast, even to other areas of the world.
Noreen Golfman, dean of graduate studies at Memorial University, says there are consequences for not improving the university experience for international students. (CBC)

"It's critical because if students have a bad time or feel they're not supported or welcome, that has huge consequences," she said.

Golfman added the study and its recommendations provide vital information to ensure the university is providing the kind of experience that makes people want to stay in Newfoundland and Labrador.

"A lot of students are coming, especially grad students, with their whole families. They're coming with kids, wives and husbands and looking at longer-term possibilities of resettlement."

The report said keeping international students here provides a benefit for students from this province as well, to study in a diverse and multicultural campus, providing them with a stronger appreciation for diversity as they enter the workforce.


To encourage thoughtful and respectful conversations, first and last names will appear with each submission to CBC/Radio-Canada's online communities (except in children and youth-oriented communities). Pseudonyms will no longer be permitted.

By submitting a comment, you accept that CBC has the right to reproduce and publish that comment in whole or in part, in any manner CBC chooses. Please note that CBC does not endorse the opinions expressed in comments. Comments on this story are moderated according to our Submission Guidelines. Comments are welcome while open. We reserve the right to close comments at any time.

Become a CBC Member

Join the conversationCreate account

Already have an account?