For many international students, starting university amid the whirl of travel, customs and immigration, and the excitement of a new country can be just a little intimidating.
Imagine exiting the airport arrival gates and being greeted by a friendly face offering a free telephone call to your parents and information about finding your way around your new home.
|Above: After they’ve cleared customs and immigration and collected their luggage, international students can exit the arrivals gate and visit the new International Students Welcome Booths located in the international arrivals area at Toronto Pearson Airport’s Terminals 1 and 3|
That’s the thought behind a new initiative launched Monday at the international arrivals area of Terminals 1 and 3 at Toronto’s Lester B. Pearson International Airport. Initiated by the City of Toronto and supported through a partnership involving the city, Greater Toronto Area universities and colleges, the Province of Ontario and Rogers Communications Inc., the International Students Welcome Booth offers new students an important and friendly welcome to Canada. Over the next three weeks, the airport is expected to welcome more than 25,000 new international students.
As part of his remarks delivered at the opening, York President & Vice-Chancellor Mamdouh Shoukri reflected on his own experience as an international student arriving in Canada from Egypt. “No one welcomes guests better than Canadians!” said Shoukri. “I know because I had the same experience 39 years ago when I arrived at Pearson Airport as an international student.”
Left: At Monday’s opening of the International Students Welcome Booth in Pearson’s Terminal 1, York President & Vice-Chancellor Mamdouh Shoukri, spoke about his experience as an international student
While the international arrivals area looks a lot different than 39 years ago, the initial impetus for Shoukri’s desire to study in Canada remains the same. “I chose Canada to pursue a master’s degree and PhD because of the quality of education that this country offered and continues to offer, its diversity and multiculturalism, and most importantly, to become a citizen of the world.
“Let’s face it, one of the key ingredients needed for students – the future leaders – to effectively contribute to today’s growing economy and succeed, is a quality education, one that recognizes the importance of internationalization and engagement with the world.”
International students bring world perspectives into the classroom, which, Shoukri said, in this increasingly interconnected world, helps the entire student population to foster relationships and interact with others. “This welcome project is a great initiative, and a great way to start that relationship building,” he said.
|Above: City of Toronto student ambassadors Humber College student Lovepreet Dhailwal (third from left) and York University student Nontokozo Langwenya (third from right) are joined by David Fulford, assistant deputy minister for Corporate Services Division, Ontario Ministry of Training, Colleges and Universities; Mamdouh Shoukri, president & vice-chancellor, York University; Susan Gordon, vice-president, Rogers Communications Inc.; City of Toronto Councillor Josh Colle; Toby Lennox, vice-president, corporate affairs & communications, GTAA; and John Davies, president & CEO, Humber College|
“We are providing a welcome to international students for a city that is becoming increasingly dynamic, exciting and diverse,” said Toby Lennox, vice-president of corporate affairs and communications for the Greater Toronto Airport Authority. “I was speaking with a planner about what makes a successful city and he told me that there are three things…a dynamic downtown, a great airport and dynamic universities.”
As part of the group making remarks at the opening, David Fulford, the assistant deputy minister of the Ontario Ministry of Training, Colleges and Universities, reflected on his own experience as he sent his children off to study overseas and how grateful he was to hear they had arrived at their destination.
Susan Gordon, vice-president of Rogers Communications Inc., echoed Fulford’s comments, recalling how nervous she was when her children went to universities in cities just two hours away. The corporate sponsor for the International Students Welcome Booth, Rogers is providing the technology and support to help international students contact their parents back home.
Left: The City of Toronto student ambassadors greet York President & Vice-Chancellor Mamdouh Shoukri and York Associate Vice-President International Lorna Wright
“One of the first things international students will be able to do once they arrive is make a call back to mom and dad courtesy of Rogers to let them know that they have arrived safely,” said Gordon. “This will put their parents at ease and we are thrilled to do this as part of this welcome initiative.”
The booth will remain open for 15 days, from 6am to 12pm, and 4pm to 11pm each day. In addition to Terminal 1, there will also be an International Students Welcome Booth in the international arrivals area of Terminal 3 at the Toronto Pearson International Airport.
“I am delighted with this initiative,” said Lorna Wright, York’s associate vice-president international. “It shows we recognize the importance of international students to our institutions and the community at large, that we value their contributions to our communities. As a former international student myself, I know how happy I would have felt to have had this welcoming.”
At each location, students will also be given a free welcome kit. They will get answers to their questions and information about public transit, housing and accommodation, Toronto’s communities and neighbourhoods, shopping, dining and entertainment. There will also be a free shuttle service (based on availability) to the campuses of the participating postsecondary institutions. By dropping by the booth, students will also be able to enter a contest for a chance to win a free all-expenses-paid trip for two guests to come to Canada from anywhere in the world in 2012.