submitted: Monday, August 14, 2017
College of the Rockies International Students Benefiting Community

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photo - College of the Rockies International Students Benefiting Community

Photo: Originally from Brazil, former College of the Rockies student, Livia Lara, has found her niche and is giving back to the community in the process.

College of the Rockies’ International department continues to flourish and grow, attracting students from 40 different countries to Cranbrook and the College’s regional campus communities. The College expects the growth to continue for the 2017-18 academic year with an increased number of international students.

The BC Council for International Education stated in February that over $3.5 billion was contributed to the BC economy from international student spending in 2015. Locally, international students are also filling a void created by the elimination of the Temporary Foreign Worker program.  Many small businesses that were unable to find employees to fill part time positions, are now benefiting from the willingness of international students to fill these roles.

Livia Lara came to College of the Rockies from Brazil to complete the post-degree certificate in Sustainable Business Practices.  Falling in love with the Cranbrook community, and as a regular attendee of the Farmer’s Market, Livia was intrigued when she saw a job posting for the role as Manager of the Market. She applied, assuming it was a long shot, but her experience in management and in planning events were enough to win her the position.

She feels that having international students work at local businesses can be a win-win situation. “It can be a little bit of a challenge with language and cultural differences, but international students come with a different background and a different perspective that can bring a lot to a business, and bring new ideas,” she says. 

Cranbrook Farmer’s Market Board Chair, Tyler McNaughton agrees, “Our Market is made up of a diverse group of venders producing a wide range of products from food to artisan goods for a varied customer base. Employing a person like Livia, who comes from Brazil - which has a rich history of cultural integration, makes her well suited to run an organization like the Cranbrook Farmer’s Market.”

“We are very fortunate to have College of the Rockies in our community producing a high-quality, educated future employee base,” McNaughton continues. “The strength of the College is directly correlated to the strength of our economy. It is of further benefit to the economy to employ students from other countries. These students have demonstrated a willingness to take a risk by moving to a new country with a different culture and climate. Their motivation to succeed while here is high, a welcome quality by any employer.”

With the College’s expectation of a continued increase in international students for both the fall and winter semesters, even more local businesses will be able to take advantage of this pool of young individuals who are eager to work. The College’s international department is available to provide support, not only for the students but also for the businesses that hire them.

“We are able to act as an access point, providing assistance to local businesses who may be concerned about hiring students from other countries,” says Wayne Lee-Ying, College of the Rockies Manager of International Education.  “Though most workplace experiences are overwhelmingly positive, we understand that there are sometimes cultural differences that arise.  We are happy to be a part of the solution and help promote intercultural understanding between employers and our international students.”

The presence of international students in the community doesn’t just help local businesses, however. Domestic College of the Rockies students also benefit. Many times the presence of international students boosts class numbers, allowing courses that were in danger of being cancelled due to low enrolment to go ahead. The financial contribution to the College from international student fees also helps the College with the always rising costs of doing business, providing needed funds for additional programs and services.

The College believes that in today’s global environment, exposure of students to those from different backgrounds and cultures is a crucial component of a well-rounded education. “The intercultural experience students receive when our classrooms consist of a mixture of domestic and international students helps them be better prepared to succeed in a global workforce,” says Lee-Ying.

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