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International Welcome Festival September 2018

Sheridan Underscores its Commitment to International Student Success

September 18, 2018

This fall, Sheridan welcomed over 2,300 international students from 85 countries to its campuses. To help international students transition to Sheridan and Canada, the college hosted several Orientation activities, and provides many ongoing support services. “We think of building success for international students not as a moment but as an engagement throughout their time at Sheridan,” says Dr. Mike Allcott, Dean, International.

Pre-departure orientation was held this past July in India and China, and gave Sheridan staff and leaders an opportunity to meet with parents and students. “The signature of Sheridan’s pre-departure orientation is that parents and students get to meet the real people who will actually be a part of students’ lives when they’re here. It is a very important moment for parents who are entrusting their students to us,” says Allcott.

Pre-departure supports also included access to a virtual community on SLATE (Sheridan Learning and Teaching Environment), which includes information and allows students to become familiar with the SLATE environment before they begin classes. Students are also encouraged to download the iCent app, created by Sheridan alumnus Ganesh Neelanjanmath, which provides resources such as a pre-departure checklist and information on many topics of interest to international students, including transportation, health insurance and banking. The iCent app also allows students to upload required documentation such as study permits, to make the onboarding process quicker and easier, and avoid the need to drop off documentation in person.

Sheridan also partnered with iCent to welcome students at the airport and help them get to campus or their place of residence.

Several Orientation activities were held to welcome international students to Sheridan. A special International Student Orientation provided important information on topics such as navigating the Canadian classroom, health insurance, immigration, life in Canada, and academic integrity.

Sheridan also hosted its third International Welcome Festival on September 8. Over 700 International students attended the Festival, held in the Peace Garden at the Davis Campus in Brampton. New international students, along with faculty and staff, joined together for a day of festivities that included cultural performances, entertainment, and food. Sponsors of the Festival included guard.me (the presenting sponsor), City of Brampton, Town of Oakville and Royal Bank of Canada.

Other Orientation events included Chai Coffee and Chat, where students could drop in, ask questions and connect over coffee and snacks. “Research shows that students that establish friendships in their first two months have much higher success rates and retention rates than students who don’t,” says Allcott. “Building a community of success all bodes well for their retention. That’s where the magic occurs in a Chai Coffee and Chat.”

Sheridan also partners with the City of Brampton and the Town of Oakville to arrange bus tours, which allow students to become familiar with the transit system and their surroundings, acclimatize to local amenities such as grocery stores, and encourage friendship-building. “The learning objective is to position them to start solving their own problems. We want them to be empowered to function in a new cultural setting,” says Allcott.

Elena Shik, Associate Director of International Services and Study Abroad, says these events give students a warm Canadian welcome and lasting memories of their Sheridan experience, but they also allow Sheridan to show its appreciation for its international students and what they bring to Sheridan. “We’re so fortunate to have many international students choose Sheridan as their destination of choice and are grateful at how much more vibrant our campuses have become because of them.”

“It’s a special moment when you arrive in a new country and if your memories of that arrival and welcome are warm and strong, those memories will get you through any of the challenges you’ll face,” agrees Allcott.

Supports throughout the year, such as events and workshops, monthly outings, and holiday gatherings, are also key to supporting international students. Sheridan also employs 10 i-Stars, international students from different countries who provide peer-to-peer support for new international students. “We try to put into place ‘just in time programming, which means we can predict what needs are going to arise at what time of year and we try and put in place programming to address those needs,” says Allcott.

Effectively supporting our students also means ensuring that our employees are aware and vested in creating a supportive environment. Events such as the annual International Professionals Day and workshops through the Centre for People and Organizational Development build intercultural intelligence and further Sheridan’s vision of holistic internationalization.

“An institution like Sheridan can be a portal to global opportunities for our communities,” says Allcott. “The perspectives, knowledge and experiences that international students bring to our learning community benefit all of our learners.”

Pictured top right: 2018 International Welcome Festival.