In­tern­ships don’t start here

Un­able to find a work term in Hal­i­fax, some Dal­housie in­ter­na­tional stu­dents are switch­ing schools or leav­ing the coun­try in or­der to grad­u­ate.

The Coast - - THE CITY - BY LU XU

Gain­ing over­seas work ex­pe­ri­ence while at­tend­ing univer­sity may sound ap­peal­ing, but some Dal­housie Univer­sity in­ter­na­tional stu­dents say they’re hav­ing trou­ble com­plet­ing this manda­tory part of their school pro­gram be­cause they can’t find a job here in Canada. Yuxi Tang is one of them. Af­ter months of fruit­less job hunt­ing, Tang is giv­ing her­self a few more weeks to find work. All of her friends have al­ready left for China, but she’s still hop­ing to find a lo­cal co-op place­ment—a com­pul­sory part of her Bach­e­lor de­gree in com­merce.

“Dis­ap­point­ment is def­i­nitely there. But it’s also nor­mal that I haven’t found any­thing as there are a lot of us [who haven’t found work],” Tang says, in an in­ter­view con­ducted in Chi­nese.

Dal­housie is one of the few uni­ver­si­ties that has manda­tory co-op re­quire­ments in its com­merce pro­gram. In or­der to grad­u­ate, stu­dents have to com­plete three work terms, typ­i­cally in their sec­ond and third years. But the lan­guage bar­rier for in­ter­na­tional stu­dents can make find­ing lo­cal work place­ments dif­fi­cult. In frus­tra­tion, some stu­dents leave the coun­try or trans­fer to other schools with­out com­pul­sory work terms—like Saint Mary’s Univer­sity—to fin­ish their de­grees.

Orig­i­nally from Shang­hai, Tang came to Hal­i­fax two years ago to study com­merce. The co-op sys­tem was ac­tu­ally a valu­able fac­tor in how she chose her pro­gram. By the time she grad­u­ated, Tang thought she’d have three terms of over­seas work ex­pe­ri­ence. More im­por­tantly, she came here with the ex­pec­ta­tion that her co-op job would have al­ready been pre-ar­ranged by Dal.

A de­gree with three cred­itable work terms is very un­com­mon where Tang comes from. Prospec­tive stu­dents of­ten rely on sec­ondary sources and spe­cial agen­cies to help them ap­ply to for­eign uni­ver­si­ties and un­der­stand how the co-op pro­grams work. Yu Tian, an­other stu­dent in the same com­merce pro­gram with Tang, says the agency she con­sulted also told her Dal would help find her an in­tern­ship. The re­al­ity is stu­dents are of­ten on their own.

Ac­cord­ing to Janet Bryson, spokesper­son for Dal­housie, the univer­sity’s fac­ulty of man­age­ment of­fers a ca­reer ser­vices cen­tre with spe­cific sup­ports for in­ter­na­tional stu­dents—such as tar­geted work­shops and ap­point­ments with recruitment spe­cial­ists.

The school’s Ca­reer and Lead­er­ship De­vel­op­ment Cen­tre is also avail­able to stu­dents look­ing for jobs.

“From drop-in peer ad­vis­ing and ca­reer coun­selling to on­line ser­vices and re­sources, the CLDC of­fers many ser­vices aimed at help­ing stu­dents de­velop their skills and iden­tify their ideal job and ca­reer paths,” writes Bryson in an email.

But many in­ter­na­tional stu­dents ex­pect more fo­cused help than re­sume and cover let­ter writ­ing.

“I wish that the univer­sity could tell us what kind of jobs have lower lan­guage re­quire­ment or com­pa­nies that tend to hire in­ter­na­tional stu­dents in gen­eral,” says Jinze Bi, a third-year fi­nance stu­dent at Dal.

Even if the in­ter­na­tional stu­dent does speak English well enough, it’s also tough get­ting past Cana­dian com­pe­ti­tion. Tang says there’s no rea­son for an em­ployer to hire an in­ter­na­tional stu­dent if there’s some­one lo­cal who’s just as good.

“You have to be ex­tremely good and out­per­form the lo­cal stu­dent to get a job here.”

The tu­ition for in­ter­na­tional stu­dents at Dal­housie is around $20,000 a year—roughly dou­ble as much as the cost for Cana­dian stu­dents.


Com­merce stu­dent Yuxi Tang is hold­ing out hope she can work here in Hal­i­fax.

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