As we kick-off International Education Week, I am encouraged by the potential that a globally-minded education can bring to our campuses and communities across the country, particularly right here in Peterborough & the Kawarthas.
At Trent University our commitment to internationalized education is strong. International experiences add value to our campuses, both in Peterborough and in the Durham Region, and bring vibrancy to student and community life.
Large cities benefit from an annual influx of international students in obvious ways. Their contributions to smaller cities across the country are often far less recognized. International students support local economies at the same time that they bring cultural and intellectual perspectives that expand our understanding of the world. A stronger focus on internationalized education can transform a community and local economy, in a way that nurtures talent, builds worldliness and bridges between different communities, and encourages Canadians to step out of their cultural comfort zones.
Those who choose to study in Canada can bring and develop skills that can address labour shortages – whether they be in the skilled trades, finance, or high-demand careers like nursing. Talent is mobile and we need to attract it from around the world if we want to be globally competitive.
In smaller communities like ours, especially in the context of fluctuating employment rates and housing instability, we need to view international talent, not as competition, but as potential collaborators who can support economic and cultural development.
The arrival of international students in smaller cities can be accompanied by multicultural shock on both sides. But this can, when supported well, build stronger communities in a way that is authentic and engaging. Postsecondary institutions and community organizations (like the New Canadians Centre here in Peterborough) can foster an atmosphere of sharing. Music, dance and food can be the best way to learn about other cultures at the same time that locals share unique aspects of Canadian culture.
Internationalization is a two-way street. Sending our students to another country for an international experience can mean a short-term course abroad, the study of a language, a joint-degree program, or one of the many options in between. All of these foster and enhance their perspectives.
This week at Trent, as part of International Education Week, students will have the opportunity to explore opportunities to study abroad, experience flavours and cultures of students from around the world, and also to learn about the best ways to market their own internationalized education.
We are also welcoming globally-recognized ambassador for international development and human rights, Stephen Lewis, as a keynote speaker on November 18, to talk about the importance of education in creating a world of good. This is an opportune time for members of the Trent community, and the community-at-large in Peterborough, to reflect on the ways we can challenge the way we think about gaining a more worldly perspective.