On Jan. 27, the University of Winnipeg (U of W) held a Dine & Discuss at Convocation Hall to examine the factors that influence the university experience for international students.
Neil Besner, provost and vice-president of academics at U of W, says it was important to find out about the academic issues, as well as non-academic.
“We were trying to hear from international students about their experience with the University of Winnipeg, of the academic part, of the non-academic part, the social part, the financial part,” Besner says.
“Our objective is to ensure that international students are supported and are successful and we want to make sure that we’re doing everything we can to support them academically,” Nigel Dixon, the executive director of U of W’s English language program, says.
“But if their life outside of academics is a stress for them, that’s going to have an impact on all areas of their living, including academics.”
While the U of W is currently planning more initiatives for international students, this particular discussion was triggered by the University of Winnipeg Students’ Association (UWSA), according to Dixon.
“The university is always interested in what’s going on with international students, but the opportunity to have assemblies is rare,” Besner adds.
“There is a cultural evening, there are orientations, but there hasn’t been a consultation – a real consultation in a while. It started with the UWSA, who came to us and said ‘We’d like to have a kind of gathering of international students to hear about their experiences with the U of W.’”
Peyton Veitch, the president of the UWSA, says listening to the opinion of international students is very important.
“The ability for people from the university, staff and administrators, to hear directly from the students, who are using those services is extremely valuable,” he says.
“It is incredibly important that the priorities of the unviersity aren’t just determined by a small group of people, but are determined by students and members of the university community.”
Issues raised by international students during the discussion included tuition fees, employment on campus, availability of scholarships as well as language, accommodation and general finance-related concerns.
Jan Byrd, the executive director wellness and student life, says that one of the major concerns they’ve noticed through the discussion was the circulation of information.
“I’ve heard a lot of comments where people gave ideas – ‘We ought to be doing conversation circles; we ought to have employment on campus for international students’ - and I’m thinking ‘we have all of that stuff, but we’ve missed communicating it,’” she says.
Heini Lee, a fourth-year student from Japan, says that high tuition is one of the major stumbling-blocks on her path towards graduation.
“I couldn’t afford more than three courses (per term), but if it wasn’t that expensive I could have already graduated,” she says.