By Amrik Virk
Minister of Advanced Education
VICTORIA - We can take great pride in the fact that every year more than 100,000 students from around the globe choose to come to British Columbia to advance their education. It speaks to the quality of our education sector and the opportunities, natural beauty and safe environment that our province has to offer.
They are students like Maik Uhlmann of Germany who travelled through B.C. a few years ago, fell in love with the Okanagan and stayed. This September, he's starting his third year toward a bachelor of business administration degree at Okanagan College.
Maik enjoys the smaller classes. "Back in Germany, my sister is in classes of about 100 students, while here our classes are 30 to 40 students. My professors know my name. I'm not just a number."
And he appreciates the teaching here. "In Germany, it's a typical blackboard style. The instructor lectures and you take notes. At Okanagan College, there's much more interaction and group work in class, and we deal with business problems that relate to the real world."
Maik is working part-time in a hotel in Kelowna. "When people hear my accent, they have lots of questions about German culture and traditions, and travel in Germany."
We are all benefiting from the time international students spend with us. They share perspective from their home countries in our classrooms. Communities are strengthened by the understanding and diversity that comes from welcoming students from all over the globe.
International students spend a great deal of money while they are here, supporting local jobs and businesses. They travel around our beautiful province to see the sights, ski, hike and bike, as well as eat and shop. In 2010, international students spent $1.8 billion in British Columbia on tuition, accommodation and other living expenses, generating 22,000 jobs.
If they decide to return home when they complete their studies, they will have first-hand knowledge of our province - experiences and contacts they can share with family, friends and colleagues. If they decide to stay and work in B.C., they will help ease the expected shortage of skilled workers, which will allow our provincial economy to keep on growing.
I want to assure you that international students do not take seats away from B.C. students. They generate additional seats and opportunities for our students. International students pay their own way for their classes - typically three to four times the tuition paid by domestic students - resources used by our educational institutions to support academic programs, services and facilities for all students.
International students have a huge and lasting impression on our province. Just as significantly, we all benefit when B.C. students study in other countries.
Jason Marchand of North Vancouver took his studies to India last term as part of his third year in the bachelor of science in nursing program at Langara College. Jason spent five weeks in the village of Jaito Sarja working in the government hospital and providing community health services in schools and homes.
Jason discovered that, "In India, the entire family is there when someone is sick. You no longer have one patient, you have a room full. I gained a real appreciation for a holistic focus to nursing, especially regarding the role of a patient's family in the healing process."
Back home now, Jason is working as a student nurse at Vancouver General Hospital, where his patients and colleagues are benefiting from his work in India.
International experiences are life-changing for our students and educators, transporting them around the world to gain knowledge and understanding, building global connections and pathways that enrich their learning and careers forever.
Our post-secondary institutions continue to pursue partnerships with education institutions in other countries so we can send students and instructors abroad, and bring students and instructors to British Columbia, strengthening international ties and co-operation.
International education is all about the two-way flow of students, faculty and ideas. Under our International Education Strategy, we're working to expand that global exchange.
Since the strategy was announced just over one year ago, we've been making real progress, including investing $5 million in scholarships and research internships for students, hiring dedicated education officers for our overseas trade offices, and refreshing LearnLiveBC - our online portal to all the great things we have to offer international students who are thinking of coming here.
As we begin the fall semester, I want to welcome international students and faculty from around the globe to British Columbia. We're glad you're here!
I want to encourage you to make the very most of your time with us and get around and explore our exciting province. I know wherever you go you'll find a warm welcome.
And if you're a B.C. student or instructor and you're packing to head off to study in another country, I want to congratulate you on your decision to expand your learning horizons and wish you many happy experiences.