Northern College and it’s international students were in the spotlight yesterday when they welcomed the Deputy Leader of the Official Opposition and MPP of Brampton, Sara Singh.

Singh was shown around Northern College with Timmins MPP Gilles Bisson. She said she learned a lot about the north during her visit, which included the college tour and chat with international students, and a visit to a local saw mill. Singh had never been to northern Ontario before and she said she’s here to enjoy the northern culture and learn more about what happens up here.

“I joked with everyone that the furthest north I’d gone was Gravenhurst,” Singh said, “I did drive up here and so it was an experience because now I think I can understand what my northern colleagues are talking about [with] the need for transportation. […] I can appreciate what they’re sharing with us more now.”

When asked about her interactions with the college’s international students, who are first generation immigrants to Canada, Singh said she admires their tenacity in pursuing the opportunities available in such a remote location.

“You realize how resilient and tenacious they really are to leave everything they’ve known in a country that’s warm and sunny,” she said, “and come to a place like Ontario where they see a lot of opportunities. And a city like Timmins, for them, represents that opportunity. And so I was sharing with them that they are forging a new path for themselves and for people that will come here after them.”

Some of the issues Singh discussed with the students are their concerns with finding work in their field of study after graduation.

“International students are coming here, they’re getting an education. But they’re hoping also to contribute to the local economy. And so, many of them are looking for, not just part-time employment, […] they’re looking for somewhere where they can apply those skills that they’ve been trained with and to contribute again.”

Other challenges some students face are finding affordable housing and fitting in with a completely different culture and environment. Singh says its important that students are aware of resources available to them, like employment services and counselling services. She said it’s important that members of government hear these concerns and try to address them on a provincial level and a local grassroots level.

Some of the things that stuck out for Singh about the International Student Program was how fast it’s been growing and the challenges that comes with that rapid growth.

“Any institution where your numbers are quadrupling in a year or semester, there are challenges in terms of making sure that the students needs are being met.” Singh commented, “and so today was about hearing some of those challenges, but [also] some of the success stories that they’ve had here.”

The International Student Program has brought success and growth to some of Northern’s programs that previously weren’t thriving. The additional interest has revitalized certain programs and also given students opportunities to share what they have to offer with our community.

Singh said the visit helped make a lot of connections for students and answered some of their questions and concerns.

“Overall, they do feel like their needs are being met,” Singh said. “We asked them the question if they could do this all over again, would they come to Timmins. And the large majority of them said ‘yes they would’. And they look forward to staying here and continuing to call this place home.

“So I think, while there are, obviously, challenges, as there are for any student, regardless of whether they’re international or not, I think that their needs are absolutely being met. And they’re looking forward to building a good life here in Timmins.”

Singh said she enjoyed her time in northern Ontario, that it was a good learning experience and she plans on coming back, just maybe in the summer next time.



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