College is the best time to grow in all aspects of life. It is a time of change, of challenging your beliefs and experiencing life as a more independent person for the first time, for many of us.
When deciding where to study, the international aspect of a university is a factor in one way or another. It may be because we want to know if there will be other students from our home country, or maybe we just want to know what kind of community we will be able to find. Whatever the case, the benefits of “international” education are endless. Almost a year ago, in March 2018, Times Higher Education made a list of the 200 most international universities in the world. Seven of this list were Canadian universities, all of them in the top 100.
In this context, talking about an international university is not just about the number of international students. Rather, it is about the way in which international students and staff work together on respectable research and other projects. This classification takes into account the ratio of international to domestic students, international students to staff, and the collaborations that occur. It is not just a question of international students, but of whether they are an active part of the university’s academic achievements. Times Higher Education takes very much into account how such research is cited, so how it has influenced the field and other aspects of the learning environment.
The seven universities on this list are:
University of British Columbia (24th)
McGill University (34th)
University of Alberta (40th)
University of Montreal (44th)
University of Toronto (50th)
McMaster University (54th)
University of Waterloo (60th)
The top six are also in the top 200 in their 2018 World University Rankings list. But this made me wonder, do they present themselves as “international”? And, in what way can they show it just through their websites? To that end, I looked at the websites of the top three.
University of British Columbia
From the outset, UBC promises prospective students “academic faculties and research facilities that are world-renowned for their influence and impact.” This university also prides itself on its diverse cultural, recreational and social activities. It explains that how each person will experience “student life” at UBC will depend on how each student chooses to build and create it, which honestly applies to any large university. This also implies that there is less “separation” from the eyes of the university between what the experience should be for international or domestic students. The opportunities will be there as long as the student is open to taking advantage of them.
UBC prioritizes “international engagement,” and the areas of current focus are China, India and Europe. Their strategic plan is available on their website, but they make it clear that while this is the current area of focus, they expect it to change within three to five years as they continue to move into other areas as much as possible.
As for the international student experience, they offer guidance that answers questions about: immigration, health insurance, taxes, study assistance, money management, campus safety, diversity and equity resources, among others. Their international student advisors are also all regulated citizenship and immigration advisors.
One of the first things McGill University is proud to tell prospective students is that not only does it have students from more than 150 countries, but that its student body “is the most internationally diverse of any research-intensive university in the country.”
McGill says it is committed to training “the best,” and says it has won more national and international awards than other Canadian universities. The average grades of students admitted to McGill are also the highest of any university in Canada, but don’t let that intimidate you. International students make up 31.3% of the student population.
To make the transition a little smoother, McGill has a Buddy Program that they promote in their International Student Services section. This system has been matching new international students with current students for 31 years. This “buddy” can help the incoming student by showing them around campus, Montreal, talk to them about housing and possible neighbourhoods, or just have a friendly face as soon as they arrive.
University of Alberta
University Alberta has 7000 international students from over 130 countries. This university prides itself on its high ranking in international employability, so its graduates will have the best chances of getting a job in Canada.
One of the main reasons University Alberta gives students for applying, in addition to its high ranking, is that it is an internationally recognized research institution. In addition, its international efforts focus on promoting education abroad, as well as well-funded global partnerships. U Alberta considers international students “an integral part of [the] university. They enrich the classrooms with different perspectives.”
In general, trying to rank universities according to their degree of internationality can be quite subjective. While Times Higher Education considers it to be “international,” others may prefer a more student-centered approach rather than academics. What kinds of clubs are popular with students at this university? What kinds of cultural activities attract attention? What do current international and domestic students think of your community?
Based on these questions alone, perhaps the list will change, so don’t let lists and rankings be a limitation. Consider them, look further, and then decide.