International students arrive in Canadian to study in the many diverse post-secondary institutions available. They come full of hope and inspiration to learn and take the next steps in their personal development. Up until very recently however, there has been no official settlement supports for these students, who are very obviously new to Canada, to assist them upon their arrival and when they face the challenges of life in a new country. Unfortunately, international students do not have access to the many settlement services that Citizenship and Immigration Canada provides to those newcomers with immigrant status.
The question “how will the settlement sector support international students” has been discussed for several years now. Recently, the Ministry of Citizenship and Immigration and International Trade (MCIIT) commissioned a study from COSTI Immigrant Services to determine if international students need settlement services in post-secondary institutions. The results were conclusive, indicating a significant need for services. As part of a pilot project to meet this need, CultureLink is partnering with Humber College to provide settlement assistance to international students studying at its North and Lakeshore campuses. We have already delivered four workshops on the topic of housing and legal issues associated with housing, in November and December of 2015, and have followed-up with individual assistance to a number of students.
For this pilot project COSTI has teamed up with the Toronto Settlement Collaborative (TSC), community agencies that deliver the Settlement Workers in Schools (SWIS) program in elementary and secondary schools in Toronto. Each of the five TSC agencies–CultureLink, North York Community House, Catholic Cross Cultural Services, Thorncliffe Neighbourhood Office and Centre for Immigrant and Community Services–is partnered with a post-secondary institution that is within their catchment area.
The International Student Connect pilot is scheduled to be completed by March 31, 2016. COSTI has applied for continued funding and we are hopeful the program will continue to assist international students who often face precarious settlement issues upon their arrival in Canada. Evaluation results of the pilot will be collected and reviewed to inform future programs which support international students at post-secondary institutions.
by Lisa Randall, Program Manager, Settlement Workers in School