UBC’s global edge

International students are a key part of UBC’s mandate to serve the province

For B.C.-born student Conor Clarance, attending a university alongside international students was essential to his education and career goals. Aspiring to be like his father—who has traveled in 115 countries—Clarance wanted to be prepared to succeed anywhere in the world. Originally from Whistler, B.C., the student is now trilingual, and as part of his marketing and international business degree at UBC’s Sauder School of Business, studied and worked in Hong Kong and Taiwan.

“It has changed my perspective,” he says of his interactions with students from other countries at UBC. He recalls an international marketing class that involved a case study of France’s Disneyland. “I came in with my own ideas but when my classmates—many of them international students— began sharing their ideas, they had very different views on how they would solve the problem.”

“I still have my own ideas but I always re-evaluate them and take some time to think about the audience,” says Clarance.

Hoping all students leave UBC with an understanding  of global citizenship, UBC’s leaders also see foreign students as fundamental to enhancing learning for Canadians.

“There is simply nothing you can do, in terms of formal education, which is as effective in creating a genuine and deep understanding of global citizenship, than providing the opportunity for people from around the world to engage with each other,” says Wes Pue, provost and vice principal of the Okanagan campus.

“The issues that confront us all today—whether climate change or economic inequality—are global in scope and Canadians will need to work with people from myriad backgrounds to address those issues,” says Angela Redish, vice provost and associate vice president, Enrolment and Academic Facilities for UBC’s Vancouver campus. “A global perspective is essential for the integrated world we’re living in.”

Making room for domestic and international students

About 6,000 of UBC’s 45,000 undergraduate students come from another country—5,450 on the Vancouver campus and 550 on the Okanagan campus. As part of its educational goals, the University is committed to increasing international student enrolment at both its Okanagan and Vancouver campuses.

UBC leaders are clear on this point: international students do not displace domestic students.

With 32,000 undergraduate domestic students in Vancouver, and 7,100 in the Okanagan, the University is serving more B.C. students than ever before. UBC fills all of the spaces funded by the provincial government for Canadian students.

International students pay the full cost of their education to add more spaces, and the increased enrolment allows the University to improve its offerings for all students.

Benefits for both campuses

Attracting international students to UBC’s Vancouver campus might seem like a natural fit for a major multicultural city. But the Okanagan is also home to students from an impressive 81 countries.

“Our students have the opportunity to meet the world right here in Kelowna,” says Pue. “Very few of us get to experience that type of global interaction in our day-to-day lives.”

Nishat Tasnim, a second year biology student from Bangladesh’s busy capital city Dhaka, was nominated for an International Leader of Tomorrow (ILOT) scholarship, and had to pick between the two campuses.

“I come from a very urban, very busy, very populated city so I thought it would be interesting to place myself in a more natural setting,” said Tasnim. She also knew that she would prefer the close-knit community: “The classroom experience is enriched by smaller classes where I can engage with my other classmates.”

Tasnim says a lot of students choose to apply to UBC’s Okanagan campus  for similar reasons, regardless of whether they are domestic or international students.

“The more I talk to people from around the world, the more I realize how much I have in common with them,” she said. “You get an appreciation for diversity but you also get a sense of how similar people are.”

Tasnim started volunteering, working in research labs and taking part in student-led cultural exchange events. “International students bring a lot of energy to the university. We’re eager  to share our countries, our culture, and our language.”

An international student’s perspective

Like Tasnim, Harsev Oshan (from Mombasa, Kenya), a third-year political science student and the president of the Arts Undergraduate Society (AUS) at the Vancouver campus, is an ILOT winner. When he arrived on campus, Oshan took part in Jump Start, a program to help international students transition to the Canadian university environment.

After going through Jump Start and meeting students from the four corners of the earth, Oshan wanted to get involved. “When you leave home, you’re looking for a community and by getting involved, you immediately create a community.”

UBC is expanding support programs like Jump Start that help create a campus environment where students can really engage with one another.

“It really is a give-and-take,” Oshan notes, about the opportunity to meet others, share views and hear what they have to say. “It helps you figure out your own perspective.”

Global connections

Beyond the daily exchange between domestic and international students, UBC leaders see bigger picture benefits to bringing international students to Vancouver and Kelowna.

“In Kelowna and the Okanagan Valley, it is widely acknowledged that the presence of people from around the world is a good thing for the culture and economy of the region,” says Pue.

Redish explains that the connections and relationships that international students forge while studying in Canada can have economic benefits in the future in areas such as business, tourism and trade.

“Some international students stay in Canada to make a permanent contribution to the Canadian economy and society,” she says. “Others leave with an understanding and an appreciation of Canadian values and culture and the beginning of a lifelong connection with Canada.”

RELATED STORY: To hear what students have to say about meeting classmates from other cultures, visit: In their own words

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UBC Reports | Vol. 59 | No. 2 | Feb. 6, 2013

Kenyan Harsev Oshan is a third-year political science student and president of the Arts Undergraduate Society. Martin Dee Photograph

Kenyan Harsev Oshan is a third-year political science student and president of the Arts Undergraduate Society. Martin Dee Photograph

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“The issues that confront us all today—whether climate change or economic inequality—are global in scope and Canadians will need to work with people from myriad backgrounds to address those issues.”

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