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The Francophone Perspective

Throughout this toolkit we’ve been introduced to many of the challenges faced by international students. While many of the issues facing francophone international students have been mentioned throughout this toolkit, there are a few key differences which will be addressed in this section. One of the major differences impacting many of the challenges francophone students face is the issue of language. Students coming from French-speaking nations to study in Ontario often quickly learn that despite French being the official second language of Canada, navigating most of our social, educational, and employment systems is not made any easier by being francophone.

International students comprise a large part of the post-secondary student population on campuses across the country. Unlike international students coming to Ontario to study at anglophone institutions, those coming from abroad to study on francophone campuses have a different demographic makeup and external forces that further complicate the path to French post-secondary education in Ontario.

In the 2015-2016 academic year, Ontario post-secondary institutions saw 21,300 students enrolled in French-language post-secondary programs. Although francophone post-secondary institutions in Ontario can see up to 75% of their student body coming from abroad, for many of them, Canada’s immigration system can often pose a huge barrier to institutional success. In 2022, several articles were published highlighting the 60%-75% rejection rate of visa applications submitted by prospective francophone international students – the majority of which were from French-speaking Africa. In 2021, 72% of student visa applications coming from French-speaking Africa were rejected, when compared to the 35% rejection of applications coming from other regions of the world, one can see the additional hurdles faced by prospective francophone international students, particularly those from Africa, where 44% of the world’s French speakers live.

As mentioned previously, it is important to recognize the impact of culture on feelings of connection and thus on the wellbeing of international students. Adjusting to life in Ontario can be challenging for anyone coming from abroad. For international students coming from French-speaking nations, there is the additional challenge of adjusting a second time to the often-smaller francophone communities that exist in and around Ontario’s francophone post-secondary schools.

  • La Cité, an Ottawa-based francophone institution, offers a multitude of services and supports for international students in their Services d’accompagnement International (International Accompaniment Service). Offering international students support with orientation, integration and general information about campus life and student resources, this program is a one-stop-shop for international students to get support and build confidence and connections on campus.
  • Université de Hearst is one of Ontario’s 2 Francophone universities, and the only university supporting Francophone students in Northern Ontario. Hearst has programs such as their ‘Café Étudiant’ and services like their mentorship program, which are designed to support their students with social connectedness and integration. By facilitating these opportunities for students to share their experiences, learn about each other, build networks, and find care among their peers, they are supporting student integration that has the potential to extend beyond the campus.
  • Collège Boréal is one of Ontario’s widest-reaching francophone post-secondary institutions. From organized fitness and recreation activities to intercultural celebrations, and a wealth of rotating social activities, Collège Boréal supports the wellbeing of international students by creating experiences and opportunities to expand their horizons and engage with their peers while prioritizing and celebrating the richness and diversity of student experiences.
  1. Whole Campus Approach – It is integral to the wellbeing of international students that everyone on campus shares responsibility in supporting the emotional, social, physical, and mental health of international students.
    • Example: Improving the language accessibility of on-campus events, student clubs, sports teams and non-clinical supports. Translating promotional and outreach materials into French is one way to support francophone students’ access to activities and information that can support wellness and a sense of belonging on campus.
  2. Pre-arrival Preparation – As many francophone students learn about Ontario post-secondary schools through recruiting and research, informing prospective students about key aspects of the language barriers that life in Ontario may present can help prepare them for success.
    • Example: Informing students that Ontario is primarily Anglophone and that depending on where they are studying, access to off-campus services and supports may come with limitations.
  3. Cultural Exchange – Providing opportunities for francophone students to not only learn and experience life and customs in Ontario but share their cultures and experiences in-kind.
    • Example: Facilitating orientation events outside of ‘orientation week’ to help familiarize francophone students with on-campus services and support personnel or hosting conversation cafés like the one spotlighted at Université de Hearst.
  4. Professional Development for Staff and Faculty – Recognize that a cultural adjustment isn’t always required on the part of the student alone. Ensure that staff and faculty are equipped with the knowledge and skills to support francophone international students to integrate into the school community in a culturally adaptive and psychologically safe way.
    • Example: Taking courses to educate staff and faculty on cultural safety, and useful knowledge about the cultures of the students coming from abroad. Additionally, reading up on how to incorporate anti-oppressive principles into your practice at work is another way post-secondary staff and faculty can learn to better support incoming international students.
  5. English-language support – Although there are vibrant francophone pockets across the province, speaking English is a useful tool to support integration in Ontario. Providing activities and courses to support English skills and social networking can help open additional avenues and ease challenges in systems such as healthcare and employment.
    • Example: Providing courses and opportunities for students to practice their English skills in either informal school-based activities, or through offering referrals and information for formalized English-language supports, such as LINC courses and workplace language skill-building courses.
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