We look forward to welcoming Indian students VC York University Canada

‘We look forward to welcoming Indian students’: VC, York University, Canada

Due to the increasing diplomatic tiff between India and Canada, the latter has been the centre of almost all conversations in the past week. Amidst this chaos, Professor Rhonda Lenton, president and vice chancellor, York University, Canada talked to indianexpress.com about what such a situation could mean for Indian students aiming to study in Canada.

She also talked about the UK’s worry of ‘rip off degree’, international students’ complaints about housing and job crisis, and the increasing issue of mental health problems among international students.

Q: Can this diplomatic tension between India and Canada result in delay of commencement of the next academic year? Is there a possibility that Indian students might get affected by it?

Rhonda: York University is closely following current events between India and Canada. We remain confident that the governments of Canada and India will reach a resolution on these diplomatic matters. In the meantime, York continues to communicate closely with our international students of Indian origin to reassure them that Canada and York continue to be safe and welcoming spaces for them. We refer them to all the support and services provided by the university including student wellness and mental health supports, advice on academic, visa and immigration matters and financial aid. More generally, we help students connect with each other, and build a strong network and community here.

Q: Indian students have talked about how they have been facing mental health issues while studying abroad. Does York University provide any mental health resources for such students who tend to feel lonely or anxious there?

Rhonda: York University’s student counselling, health and well-being office provides students immediate access to counselling, from diverse cultural and professional backgrounds in a safe and positive space. We also provide short-term, ongoing counselling, workshops, group counselling, and consultation services to faculty and staff, including international students.

York students can access mental health support 24-7 through ‘keep.meSAFE’ in a variety of different languages and from anywhere in the world. Students can access real-time and appointment-based counselling support, as well as online resources. ‘Keep.meSAFE’ can connect you to on-the-ground resources around the world. It is free for all York students and all services are confidential.

There are also many different student clubs, organisations and events that international students can join, to build connections and community.

One place for international students to start is York International (YI). As a hub for international and globally-minded students, YI provides support, services and programmes geared towards international student success. YI has pre-arrival webinars for new international students to start getting to know the campus, city, academics, and other students as they prepare to arrive in Toronto.

YI also runs international student orientation at the start of each term to acquaint the students to the campus, to international student specific resources, and to each other. Throughout the year, YI runs events and programmes for international students to meet each other, as well as Canadian students, practice their English language skills, get involved on campus, explore the city, and more.

We encourage international students to reach out, come to an event, join a club, or volunteer so they can feel more connected to the university and other students. We know this kind of involvement can have a large positive impact on mental health and well-being for all students.

Q: Students are claiming that Canada is currently facing a housing and job crisis. With such a situation, worsening diplomatic ties between India and Canada, and recent cases of students getting deported because of fake admission letters, why should Indian students still choose Canada as their study abroad destination?

Rhonda: Canada is an incredibly welcoming multicultural, inclusive, safe society that values higher education. In fact, Canada’s university education system is one of the country’s best resources because no matter what university you go to, you are going to receive a high quality education.

I think it’s very important for students to do as much work as they can to find out where they are applying.

From our point of view, when we look at our student population, we are seeing that especially in first year students need access to a residence. So our entire housing plan is based on our total student population, including the needs of international students. In the last few years, we have built a whole complex called ‘The Quad’. This has been built keeping in mind the need of international students, for example we have observed that a lot of international students like to do their own cooking, so they want access to more of a suite style.

For the jobs aspect, we have a career centre at the university. We encourage students early on in their programme to approach this centre, and not wait till they are graduated. Even if they are taking on a non-credit two year programme or very short programme, even in the School of Continuing Studies. For part-time work opportunities, we provide several opportunities on campus, in which students are paid above minimum wage.

We also visit India to ensure that students and their family members have more information about where they can safely apply, and the support that students will have from our side.

Q: The UK Prime Minister, Rishi Sunak, recently talked about British universities practicing the trend of ‘rip off degrees’. Do you think such a problem can emerge in Canada too?

Rhonda: I can certainly say that it is not true for my institute, as we are focused on how to respond to the talent pipeline that is needed. We work closely with the private sector, the health sector, NGOs. We ensure that the industry needs are aligned with what our students are taking to make sure that they have the skills not just for their own success, but that they also have the skills that are needed in the job market.

Q: Are there any particular areas where you would advise Indian students to work on, before applying to your university?

Rhonda: Although many elements of learning are common across countries, there are different cultural contexts and norms that may differ between a Canadian and an Indian classroom.

Courtesy : The Indian Express

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