Nova Scotia

Nova Scotia universities turn on the charm to lure international students

Nova Scotia post-secondary institutions are hoping a warm welcome will go a long way toward drawing even more international students to the province.

Post-secondary schools seek edge in increasingly competitive market

Hired students at the Halifax airport welcome international students arriving to study in Nova Scotia. (Stephanie vanKampen/CBC)

Nova Scotia post-secondary institutions are hoping a warm welcome will go a long way toward drawing even more international students to the province. 

Edunova, a non-profit promoter of the education sector in the province, has set up a booth at the Halifax Stanfield International Airport to welcome students as they arrive to study. 

"We know that we need to up our game," said Wendy Luther, president and CEO of Edunova. 

"Not only in sharing our message of why students should come here to Nova Scotia, but also making sure that they have the best experience when they're here." 

Booth manned for week

Nine students from schools around Nova Scotia will spend seven days manning the booth near the domestic arrivals area of the airport from 9 a.m. to 3 a.m. 

Their job is to welcome students as they arrive, offer snacks, water, and practical information about anything from where to buy your dorm room supplies to how to get around campus. 

It was huge help for Antoine Desferet, who arrived to Halifax for the first time from France, planning to study at Dalhousie. 

"Thank God they're here because I don't know how to get to Halifax," said Desferet. 

Facing stiff competition

The move is one way the province is trying to edge out the increasingly competitive international education market. 

"Countries around the world are vying for these students," Luther said.

"The traditional receiving countries of Canada, the U.S., the U.K. and Australia are now facing stiff competition from emerging markets who are building up their education and training expertise and infrastructure to host these students." 

Luther said international students represent the province's second largest export in terms of revenue, bringing in nearly a billion dollars a year. 

She said 10,000 students will arrive in Nova Scotia this year to study. 

Students from outside of the province and from outside the country make up half of the student population at post-secondary institutions in Nova Scotia, according to Edunova. 

'Destiny brought me'

Rodolfo Del Aguila, a recent Dalhousie graduate, is one of the students welcoming newcomers at the airport. He said international students need extra support because they are transitioning to university life without family nearby. 

The Peru native said his decision to come to Halifax came down to money. 

"Destiny brought me to Dalhousie basically based on the cost."

Pamela Effah, a Ghana student studying at Saint Mary's University, said she chose the school based on its small size and its psychology program, but, "I didn't expect this much cold," she said. 

Desferet said he chose Halifax for the quality of life it offers. 

"It's incredible how people are tolerant and how the life is easier here."

The airport welcome project cost about $20,000 and is funded by the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency with help from participating universities. 


Stephanie vanKampen


Stephanie vanKampen is a videojournalist with the CBC News in Prince Edward Island. Send story ideas to stephanie.vankampen