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Supporting Students Coming from Areas of Conflict

Canada has long been recognized as a safe haven for individuals fleeing conflict or disaster in their home countries, and this support extends to international students facing similar challenges. Students are impacted by the globalization of our world, and political unrest in some parts of the world has direct consequences on the day to day lives of international students in Canada. Post-secondary institutions and communities play a crucial role in providing a nurturing environment for these students. By offering financial assistance, scholarships, and specialized programs, post-secondary institutions ensure that international students fleeing conflict or disaster have access to quality education and necessary resources to rebuild their lives. Moreover, Canadian post-secondary institutions often establish dedicated support systems, including counselling services and cultural integration programs, to address the unique needs and experiences of these students, fostering a sense of belonging and promoting their overall wellbeing. Through such initiatives, Canada demonstrates its commitment to providing a safe and inclusive environment for international students seeking refuge from political turmoil.

Staff can play a key role, particularly by familiarizing themselves with issues that may be affecting international students on their campuses. Students who have families and friends who are also impacted by these issues would also have clear impacts on their mental health and wellbeing. By ensuring that staff is aware of these issues, it is feasible to pre-emptively develop supports for students who find themselves in these situations, including academic accommodations, additional counselling supports, and access to resources such as housing, food or other essentials.

In addition to the institutional support, Canadian communities play a significant role in welcoming and integrating international students fleeing political conflict. Developing partnerships with community organizations and volunteer groups can help to promote cross-cultural understanding and provide platforms for international students to share their experiences. By embracing diversity and supporting international students, post-secondary institutions showcase their commitment to upholding human rights and nurturing a harmonious multicultural society that is welcoming to all, regardless of their backgrounds or the political conflicts that may be happening on the global stage.

  1. Understand and recognize stressors – Be aware of global issues potentially impacting international students. Students may have experienced trauma during their premigration and resettlement experiences, or they may have been exposed to violence, displacement, or detention. Many students have been forced to leave their home country and cannot safely return. Awareness of these challenges is critical.
  2. Equip staff to provide trauma sensitive responses and supports – As mentioned, international students may have been exposed to extreme stress, adversity, and trauma. Trauma-sensitive approaches involve understanding the impact of trauma on academic functioning and seeing behaviour through that lens.
  3. Access community resources – Reaching out to partner with organizations that specialize in working with refugee families, if that is an available resource, is a great way to ensure that international students have access to the right services. Support groups, for example, would be a beneficial resource. Keep an accurate and evolving list of available community resources.
  4. Stop any type of harassment or bullying – Students coming from areas of conflict may be at risk for bullying and harassment if classmates stigmatize them. Make it abundantly clear that this kind of behaviour is unacceptable.
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