Cape Breton University welcomes flood of international students for winter studies
International student enrolment has more than doubled in the past 1½ years
Global Studies is a CBC series exploring how the influx of international students at Cape Breton University is transforming the school and the community.
Cape Breton University is welcoming about 500 new international students as the winter semester gets underway Monday.
Like many of the new arrivals, Jacqueline Karoro of Zimbabwe flew into the Sydney airport last week.
What was her first impression of Cape Breton?
"It's really cold," she said.
Having known for some time she wanted to study in Canada, Karoro came prepared with a warm winter coat. She chose CBU partly because it was more affordable than universities in Ontario and Alberta.
"And it's small," she said. "So, coming from a small country, you don't want to be stuck in the city where it's all busy and all that."
While there's a large cohort of new students from China, and others from several African countries, the majority are from India.
Rujul Bhatt arrived last Thursday. The fact there were already a lot of international students at CBU factored high in her decision.
"You won't feel like you are far from home ... so you won't miss it too much," she said. "It is actually really inclusive ... It engages a lot of people from a wide range of communities, so it felt welcoming."
CBU has seen a huge spike in international enrolment over the past year and a half. The number of international students more than doubled last year to 1,923 from 893 in the fall of 2017.
Director of student affairs John Mayich said that's the result of more on-the-ground work in feeder countries over the past few years.
But the recruitment success has produced challenges.
Sukhwant Singh arrived from India on Boxing Day and had to live in a cramped room with some friends before finding a place of his own.
Finding housing is a challenge
"I had to suffer for around one week to finally get a place, and still I have no internet connection," he said.
Housing has been one of the biggest challenges. To that end, the university has hired an off-campus housing co-ordinator and she's been working with local landlords, said Mayich.
CBU has also partnered with Cape Breton Transit in an effort to help students get to and from the campus. As well, the university has partnered with Nova Scotia Works to help students find part-time jobs.
Looking ahead, Mayich said the university will study whether this kind of rapid growth is sustainable.
"We're going to undertake an exercise probably in the coming year on what is our capacity and how many students can we maintain based on our program levels and our staffing levels," he said.
"In hindsight, it would have been great to have that done first, but then you can't staff and resource if you don't have the funds and the availability to do it. So, we're responding, but we're at a good point now where we can make some of those strategic decisions."