New college program helps to celebrate International Education Week
The growing number of international students at the Swift Current campus of Great Plains College made it possible for the institution to celebrate International Education Week.
The college hosted a four-course multicultural lunch for students and staff, Nov. 15. Some of the students from India performed a dance while a group of students and staff participated in an informal dance.
Kristy Sletten, the manager of admissions and international at Great Plains College, said it was the first time an International Education Week celebration happened at the college.
“We thought that it was fitting, given the fact that we have a core group of international students here this year,” she told the Prairie Post after the event. “It’s fun to showcase their culture and to celebrate the idea that the international program is alive and well.”
International students are currently accepted to the administrative assistant and business certificate programs at the Swift Current campus. A small number of international students were previously accepted to these programs, but more spaces have been created for students from abroad due to the expansion of the international program. As a result, 40 new students from India, Mexico, Venezuela and the Philippines have been studying at the college since September.
“So far we have been thrilled with how they’re settling in,” she said. “They seem very happy. They are adjusting very well to life in Canada and life in
Karthikeyan Shunmugam Palanichami has enrolled for the two-year business certificate program. He is from Pollachi in the southern India state of Tamil Nadu, but he has been living in Norway for over six years. He did a masters degree in information systems management in Oslo and decided to pursue his interest in business studies.
When he looked at options to study in Canada, he specifically did not want to come to any of the bigger cities. He prefers to study at an educational institution where smaller class sizes will make it possible to have regular interaction with lecturers. He contacted different colleges in Manitoba and Saskatchewan, and he was impressed with the responses from Sletten.
“At the end of the conversation I said I'm going to apply to your college,” Palanichami recalled. “I'm very satisfied with the answers she gave to me. Other places took plenty of time to answer me and they could not get my questions and they could not answer, but she answered everything.”
Everything has been going well since his arrival in Swift Current and he enjoys living here because of the small size of the city.
“I really love the place,” he said. “The reason is this is one of the smallest town or city I have lived in because India is a huge country and we find people everywhere, wherever we go, and we do not even know who is living next to us on the next block. Here everyone is greeting everyone. I was really surprised that some people came to me and asked how is your living in Swift Current.”
Sletten considers it to be part of her role to keep an eye on students to make sure everything is going well with their transition when they arrive in Swift Current.
“We have also received a ton of benefit from the Newcomer Welcome Centre services,” she said. “They have been amazing in supporting the students. The students have all really developed a relationship with the staff there and they have done a ton to help the students settle.”
She returned from a second international recruitment trip just before the International Education Week celebration. She made her first visit to Vietnam and a second visit to the Philippines, and she is expecting to see more students from both countries to enrol for the 2019-20 academic year. She was pleased to see growing interest in the Philippines, which is an indication that the recruiting agents have been doing a good job to promote the college.
She also visited Germany and Switzerland, because there is a market in those countries for college-level or technical-level courses.
“I found that the market in Germany is definitely more limited than I thought it was going to be,” she said. “The market in Switzerland though has some really nice potential and I’m hoping I’ll be able to capitalize on that.”
She is already planning a third trip in the spring of 2019. The standard practice for an international recruitment strategy is to visit target markets twice a year.
The college plans to increase the intake of international students to between 65 and 70 students for 2019-20. The same two program options will be available in Swift Current and the business certificate program will also be offered to international students at the Warman campus.
The college follows the Ministry of Advanced Education's guide for tuition levels for international students. The tuition fee is 2.5 times what a domestic student would pay, but she noted the international fee will remain the same for next year and the college will include additional services to make it more economical for students.
Although the international program has a financial benefit for the college, it is not the main motivation for the initiative.
“It is definitely important for the college system to have programs that are filled, to make sure that we’re offering as many different programs as we can and we can do that by making sure that we have enrolment,” she said. “In terms of the institutional benefits I think definitely the opportunity for our students to have access to many different cultures is the prime reason why I continue to do what I do.”