Large, colourful maps of China, Vietnam and India are attached to walls in Jim Whiteway’s office at Loyalist College. They’re plastered with arrow-shaped stickers, directing the eye to cities in those countries where the college has partnerships. Also, a small globe on his desk has been punctured with pins, each attached to a country Whiteway has visited to build the college’s brand or recruit students.
The Bay of Quinte region’s efforts to recruit new Canadians who can boost the economy and make the area more culturally diverse is being driven by Loyalist College; a growing post-secondary institution located along the Belleville-Quinte West border. “I’m excited to be part of a huge change at Loyalist – and a change in this community,” says Whiteway, the school’s Director of International Education.
Half a decade ago, Loyalist had roughly 40 international students. Ahead of the fall of 2018 semester, Loyalist was projected to soon have about 700 International students. Those students are spread around Loyalist’s more than 60 diploma programs. The school’s renowned bioscience program is drawing strong interest from India, Whiteway says. Business and accounting courses are also in high demand from students around the globe.
Whiteway is proud of how Loyalist College has evolved and strongly believes that the college’s international recruitment efforts will do wonders for the Bay of Quinte region. If the region’s population grows it will have more businesses and more taxpayers. Big institutions, such as schools and hospitals, won’t be at risk of closure, as has been in the case in the past.
“Belleville understands that for it to grow and for this area to grow, we need new Canadians,” Whiteway says. “Our own demographic isn’t reproducing at a rate that is sustainable for the country. The country understands we need new Canadians.”
Although no precise data has been collected recently, Whiteway says it seems as though the majority of Loyalist’s international students stay in the country upon graduating to pursue work in their field and work towards gaining residency. They have the option of applying for a three-year work visa as they complete their schooling.
From the moment, an international student is accepted into the college, he or she has the college’s full support, Whiteway say. Loyalist’s International team also consists of international co-ordinator Jodie Russett and settlement officer Madhulika Potukuchi, whose job heavily involves helping students find housing.
The team provides services to students as they get ready to attend Loyalist. For instance, the college can make transportation arrangements for the students from Toronto Pearson International Airport in to Belleville. Once on campus, international students have access to the same opportunities and programs as domestic students, such as access to the career centre or study assistance programs.
During their time at Loyalist, students also have opportunities to see and experience Canada. That could mean a trip to Ottawa for the Tulip Festival or a more local excursion, like a trip to Sandbanks Provincial Park in Prince Edward County. Despite all the fun, it’s only natural for many students to experience home sickness as the year progresses, but the international team helps students deal with that in whatever way they can. “It’s a big, big experience for them,” says Whiteway. “And we try to be there for them.”
Whiteway says that Loyalist is often an attractive college to international students and their parents because it’s a smaller college, in a more rural location. It offers a less hectic lifestyle than in school in Toronto and Montreal, making it easier for students to hit the books. However, it’s still close to Toronto, Montreal and Ottawa and their strong job markets. “I think this region is close to everything and far away from everything,” Whiteway says.
While Whiteway knows that recruiting international students is good for the local economy, he also believes that it’s important from a cultural standpoint. He is asked if we all better human beings if we live in more diverse communities, with citizens from a number of different cultural backgrounds?
“I think that’s a no brainer,” he answers sharply. “It’s a small world; it’s a global economy in many different ways. And how are we disadvantaging our children in any way by exposing them to new culture, to different people from different places and different ways of life?”
“I’ve been around this community forever. It’s always had a Waterfront & Ethnic Festival,” he says, referencing the annual July festival at Belleville’s Zwick’s Island Park. “It’s an inviting community. It’s a community that has set itself up to be welcoming and has celebrated other cultures. For (the Bay of Quinte region), it’s natural to open our arms.”
More information on Loyalist’s International Centre can be found here.
— Written and Photographed By Stephen Petrick