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Introduction to International Students

Canada has a strong reputation as a desirable and welcoming destination for international students. Over the past several years, there has been a marked increase in the recruitment of international students to Ontario’s post-secondary institutions. These post-secondary institutions have consistently demonstrated that international students are critical to the long-term viability and success of Ontario’s university and college sectors. The unique contributions and lived experiences of international students are also integral in promoting the principles of equity, diversity, and inclusion within postsecondary education.

International students provide significant financial contributions to Canada’s post-secondary education system and can also face considerable financial strain while attending Canadian institutions. According to data from Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada, in 2019, international students contributed over $21 billion to the Canadian economy, with over half of that amount going towards tuition and other fees at post-secondary institutions. This is particularly true for private satellite schools that partner with Ontario’s public colleges. Auditor General Bonnie Lysyk found the net profit margin for them ranged between 18 and 53 per cent in 2020.

Arriving from more than 180 countries, international students who come to Canada are ethnically and culturally diverse, contributing positively to Canada’s multiculturalism. They are also essential in supporting population growth and filling the growing gap in an aging labor force. As Canada continues to experience employment shortages, international students are an important pool for organizations seeking staff. In addition to their economic contribution, international students bring cultural diversity and new perspectives to Canadian classrooms, enriching the learning experience for all students.

The mental health and well-being of international students are important topics for post-secondary institutions to address. Being far away from their home communities, cultural differences in the understanding of wellness, and the age-related developmental trajectory of mental health concerns make international students an important population for institutions to consider when developing supportive mental health and well-being services and programming. Through an analysis of these critical facets of daily life, this toolkit aims to dissect key issues and provide a fulsome understanding of how the unique vulnerability of international students intersects with daily life to mold mental health outcomes. While the issue of supporting the mental health and wellbeing of international students is a complex subject, this toolkit aims to provide a snapshot of the issue coupled with practical strategies for post-secondary institutions to implement that can improve their well-being. As the world is rapidly changing, we acknowledge this is a living document that will be amended as newer sources of information become available.

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