As we know, international study experiences do not always live up to student expectations, particularly in cases of inadequate institutional support. However, it is safe to say that the recent travel ban in the U.S. has surpassed invoking disappointment and headed straight into nightmare territory for international students, among so many others with personal and familial ties to the 7 predominantly-Muslim countries targeted.
Post-secondary institutions, along with countless other individuals and organizations from all over the world, have not only denounced the ban, but are also stepping up to accommodate affected students. In fact, many Canadian universities are opening their doors to those who may be second-guessing their decision to enrol or return to U.S.-based institutions, even now that the ban has been lifted.
Building Bridges Through Education
A growing handful of Canadian universities are doing what they can to streamline the application process for international students affected by the ban, whether through waived fees, flexible deadlines, or even the establishment of a task force. Canada certainly stands to benefit from an influx of international students and potential citizens- academically, culturally, and economically. But to liken the current enrolment shift to that of dissatisfied customers taking their business elsewhere is oversimplifying and dehumanizing the overarching issue at hand.
Fear of discrimination based on nationality and religion is, sadly, justified and understandably heightened in the wake of today’s political climate. The incentives that many Canadian universities are offering international students are gestures of support and solidarity. It’s their way of saying, “We don’t stand for intolerance and we support your right to a quality education, free from discriminatory barriers- whether explicit or indirect”.
Beyond an Open Door
Welcoming International students with open arms is a great first step for post-secondary institutions, but recent events should provide a clear indication that there is still work to be done. Schools must take a closer look at how they are supporting diversity, while condemning acts of intolerance and hatred. Now, more than ever, the notion of a college campus as a safe space must be actualized and upheld. It is time for higher education to step up its inclusion game and hone in on the unique challenges and needs of international students.