by Barbara Black
Claudette Fortier, Coordinator
of the International Students Office (ISO), and Pat Hardt, Assistant Coordinator,
have noticed some changes in their clientele.
For one thing, theyre younger. Probably as a result of determined
recruiting efforts, more of our new international students are about 18
or 19, the age of our homegrown students. And that can lead to problems.
Traditionally, international students tended to be mature; they may have
had some work experience in their own country, and possibly an undergraduate
degree, too. However, an increasing number of Concordias international
students are going straight from their parents homes into a culture
that offers a high degree of freedom and responsibility.
Fortier and Hardt urge the Faculties that are spending effort, imagination
and expense on recruiting more students from abroad to be aware of the
special academic needs of these students.
The ISO gives orientation workshops to small groups of international students
for about four weeks at the beginning of every term, but Fortier and Hardt
say its an ongoing challenge to match the support services and programs
to this growing and changing clientele.
Last year, we saw 800 students over four weeks, Hardt said.
We try to make the workshops as personalized as possible. Many students
would benefit from more individual follow-up, especially the young, first-year
students who are more vulnerable to academic difficulties and culture
They arrive full of confidence Im an excellent student,
I can handle five full coursesand then they find they cant.
Or there are the ones who arrive already overwhelmed and homesickwe
can spot them right away.
Fortier continued, Many are under a lot of pressure, especially
when their parents are supporting them. For many families, the financial
burden is great, and students feel compelled to register for a lot of
courses and do well. All this in addition to the other challenges in their
International students find their feet eventually and do well, even spectacularly
well, but the ISO staff often hear students complaining that they did
not have enough guidance, particularly academic advising, when they first
Not only is it a different culture for them, but its a different
academic culture, Hardt said. They dont realize their
professors expect them to speak out in class, for example. Many have no
idea of the writing thats involved in their courses. Five minutes
with an academic advisor isnt enough.
Fortier is an active member of the Canadian Bureau for International Education,
which has been lobbying government to improve conditions for these students.
For example, Canada is one of the few remaining countries that doesnt
allow holders of an international student visa to work off campus. For
a student who cant afford a $1,000 ticket home, it can mean a lonely
summer with few available courses, when he or she could be gaining work
experience and making some pocket money.
Fortunately, the Concordia International Students Association (CISA) was
created three years ago. These students provide a warm welcome and support
for their new peers in the form of social activities and outings to see
more of Quebec. CISA has been invaluable in enhancing the services and
programs provided by the International Students Office.