Why did I choose to come to Atlantic Canada for my education? As an international student, studying in a larger urban centre like Toronto or Vancouver seems like a much more lucrative and wise decision. New Brunswick, however, does not seem like a viable option, at least from an international student’s perspective.
It takes a lot of effort to leave the comforts of your home country and move somewhere completely new. It is often the case that international students feel welcomed and at home in Sackville, but remaining in New Brunswick after your undergrad does not seem like a plausible plan. Even when you try to be optimistic about living and working in the province, lack of institutional cooperation creates an unsuitable environment for people to stay in the province once they have finished university.
One prominent issue that international students at Mount Allison face is obtaining valid pieces of ID to use at stores, restaurants, bars and airports. My friends and I have experienced how difficult it is to manage without a Canadian ID while living in residence for the past two years. This has me wondering if it is worth staying in Atlantic Canada when it is easier to obtain Canadian ID in provinces like British Columbia, where universities put in an effort to help international students get a BCID during their orientation week.
Anyone who has been abroad will understand the dangers of losing a passport in another country. Not having a provincial ID or a driver’s licence forces international students to carry their passports around. Losing your passport means hundreds of dollars in flights to major cities to contact an embassy, applying for a new study permit and long-term student visas – on top of applying for a new passport. Having access to a provincial ID is necessary for an international student, since it is the only piece of ID other than a passport that is accepted across Canada.
Given that an on-campus address is considered insufficient proof of residential status in New Brunswick, international students living on campus cannot obtain provincial ID or a driver’s licence. For many, such as international aviation students who must commute to Moncton Flight College on a regular basis, a driver’s licence is nearly essential. With meagre transport facilities to and from Sackville, having a car becomes a necessity.
Although moving off campus gives students a valid address and makes it easier to obtain ID, leaving residence early might mean missing out on certain opportunities to get involved on campus. Based on my personal experience, residence life is a great way of adjusting to life at Mt. A and Canada in general.
Little things, like recognizing international students as prospective professionals, for instance, are crucial in helping them stay in the province. Lack of recognition on a government level is a major deterrent and directly results in alienation. Not only does the provincial government struggle to retain young people in the province, it also falls far behind in retaining the substantial number of international students who would positively contribute to New Brunswick’s economy and communities, and who would gladly make Canada their home.
I am an optimist and would like to live and work in Atlantic Canada. I am fond of the sense of community I feel when living in the small and mid-sized cities in this part of the country and can see the potential for growth. That said, it becomes increasingly difficult to commit to this idea when I see other parts of Canada doing the right things sooner, whereas New Brunswick still needs a lot of work.