Nova Scotia

NSCC eyes new app to guide foreign students as more flock to school

The Nova Scotia Community College is having an app built to help its international students better navigate life in the province.

App will help students understand what they need to know to live in Nova Scotia

International students make up about two per cent of the Nova Scotia Community College's more than 11,000 full-time students. (Robert Short/CBC)

Before coming to Halifax to study business administration at the Nova Scotia Community College, Maria Cecilia Jorge Maciel from Brazil had a lot of questions about life in Canada.

How do you go about renting an apartment? How do you get from the airport into the city? What clothes do people need for the Canadian climate?

"When we are not from here, we don't know what websites we should search and whether we can trust them," said Jorge Maciel, 38.

While NSCC has a section on its website geared at providing international students with information about life in Canada and has orientation sessions once they're on campus, it wants to better relay that information.

With a surge in international students, the school is having an app built to help them better navigate life in Nova Scotia.

"We were looking for ways to provide students with some just-in-time information," said Ashley Pinsent-Tobin, one of NSCC's managers of international learning.

International student numbers rise

She said the adjustment for international students coming to a new country to study can be "overwhelming."

There are 225 international students attending NSCC this year, nearly triple three years ago. They come from 45 countries and make up about two per cent of the school's full-time student body.

The app will be built by a third party and will only be in English, the language in which NSCC offers its programs. It's expected to cost $10,000 to develop and about $6,000 a year after that, although the annual cost could rise if NSCC's international student numbers continue to increase.

Jorge Maciel applauds the idea.

"It really takes some time to get used to everything here, the new environment and everything we need to do. Anything that can help us … is very useful," she said.

App launch date

Pinsent-Tobin suspects part of what is fuelling the school's growth in international students is they are using NSCC's programs as a means of getting fast-tracked into working in Canada.

She used the example of getting a two-year diploma from NSCC, as compared to getting a three or four year's bachelor degree from university, and then following that up with a three-year postgraduate work permit.

"It's a shorter way to get into the job market," said Pinsent-Tobin.

The plan is to get the app up and running for the 2017-18 academic year.