The international student experience

By Zainab Takuma

The University of Calgary plans to increase the number of international students from just over five to 10 per cent of the undergraduate population by 2016. This raises the question of how the international student experience at the U of C differs from domestic students.

There are currently more than 2,600 international students at the U of C and they face a number of challenges upon enrolment. The cost of tuition is usually one of their biggest concerns, as it is significantly more expensive than what Canadian students pay, at almost $20,000 a year for a full course load.

According to International Student Services manager Ricky Ramdhaney, they pay more because, unlike Canadian students, international students cover the full cost of their education.

“Canadian student education is subsidized by the Canadian government based on taxes that have been paid into the system,” Ramdhaney said. “It’s not that international students are paying more necessarily. Canadian students are actually paying less.”

International students are eligible for merit-based scholarships but cannot get financial aid from the government. According to Ramdhaney, financial aid is
difficult to secure for international students because of provincial policies towards post-secondary education.

“The government of Canada requires that when international students apply for study permits, they have to provide evidence that for at least the first year they can support themselves,” Ramdhaney said. “If you’ve just proven to the government that you have enough money to last you at least for the first year, then the justification for you needing additional funds is very low, because you’re saying, ‘I have the money.’ ”

Vice-provost international relations Janaka Ruwanpura, who was hired to pursue the U of C’s international strategy, acknowledged that the university would benefit financially from recruiting international students because they pay substantially more than Canadian citizens, but said this will not impact prospective locals who want to be educated at the U of C.

“Financially, [having more international students will] help because people are saying they are going to bring in more [money] than local students. But we’re not going to sacrifice a single local seat to get an international student because that’s not our agenda,” said Ruwanpura.

Biomedical Engineering PhD and international student Ashkan Rhamani said he supports the U of C’s goal of increasing the number of international students on campus. However, he stressed that the university has some work to do first.

“A very serious issue that I have with the U of C is the people who take care of the administrative jobs. I have never seen a system more inefficient than the U of C. When I got here, I didn’t get paid in the first month because they gave me the wrong forms,” said Rhamani. “I am paying $13,000 a year and I demand some service. I’ve been in three universities so far and I’ve been in two different systems and this is the most inefficient system I’ve ever seen in my life.”

Fourth-year international relations student Mayda Boberly also said the U of C needs to improve its international student advising.

“The majority of us are very lost since the academic program is completely different from our own countries,” Boberly said. “I think that even though we pay triple the tuition of a Canadian student, the education and preparation I am getting from all the professors and instructors is good and it is incomparable to the education I would have gotten in Venezuela.”

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