Georgian welcomes students from around the world
November 25, 2014

A group of international students poses in front of a blackboard

A group of international students enjoying Game Night – one of many activities organized for newcomers at Georgian College

If you wander the halls of Georgian College this fall, chances are good that you will run into a student like Yonggang Jiang. He arrived at Georgian in January 2013 to begin studies in our Hospitality Management – Hotel and Resort program.

A mature student, Yonggang already holds one diploma and two degrees and has considerable work experience in his native China.

But, like many of our international students, Yonggang has a desire to learn more about the world, and he has chosen to do that at Georgian. While living and studying in Barrie, he is already contributing immensely to our community and our college.

A keen athlete, he has run several marathons and triathlons, rowed a dragon boat race and plunged into freezing Kempenfelt Bay during last February’s polar bear dip. He volunteers for Georgian’s International Centre, within his Hospitality Management program and with the City of Barrie.

In short, he has made a substantial contribution to the community in less than a year.

While Yonggang learns about life in Canada, his fellow students also learn about his life in China. It’s a wonderful exchange, and one that is taking place right across the college.

In our strategic plan Focus 2015, Georgian has made a commitment to strengthen and diversify our global connections through increased international enrolment and new international partnerships.

This fall, Georgian welcomed 487 new international students, bringing the total to a record 1,066 international students from 52 countries enrolled in full-time and part-time programs and English for Academic Purposes.

Ten years ago, we had just 306 international students. In the past year alone, we have seen our International post-secondary student numbers jump by 26%, and English for Academic Purposes enrolment grow by 57%.

Where do these students come from? The majority arrive from China and India while others are from Venezuela, Nigeria, Ukraine, Mexico, South Korea, Japan and Colombia, to name a few.

They’re studying in a wide range of programs. The most popular include Computer Systems & Networking, Hospitality Management, Automotive Business, Opticianry, Mechanical Technician, Precision Skills and Mechanical Engineering Technology, Automotive Manufacturing.

The economic impact is large. Our International Centre currently employs 19 staff and contributes millions of dollar annually to the college’s bottom line. Students living in our communities spend money on rent, groceries and other consumer activities. Many households in the Barrie area gain culturally and financially by offering room and board options for students through our popular homestay program.

And it’s not just Barrie that benefits. While the majority of international students live and study in Barrie, others are enrolled at campuses in Orillia, Owen Sound, Midland and Collingwood.

Looking at the other side of the equation, Georgian offers international study opportunities for domestic students too. How does living in a 250-year-old castle sound? That’s what 21 Culinary and Hotel Resort students are doing as part of a semester abroad in Strasbourg, France. While completing an internship, taking classes and learning about European culture, they also take advantage of weekend trips to Amsterdam, Paris, Spain and Venice.

Meanwhile, students in our unique Bachelor of Business (Golf Management) program gain insight into some of the world’s premiere golf courses as an integral part of their program. They visit the birthplace of golf – St. Andrews in Scotland – and tour golf facilities across North America.

Every spring, dozens of students from our Nursing program team up with faculty and health care professionals from the community to volunteer in the Dominican Republic. Working in remote settlements, they collaborate with Dominican doctors and nurses, providing care and donated medications.

I can’t begin to tell you what a difference this makes in people’s lives.

When students like Yonggang study at Georgian, and when domestic students go abroad, everyone wins.

Classmates make personal connections that can last long after graduation. International students take home with them a strong, positive appreciation for Georgian and the Central Ontario region, which many of them pass along to family members and work colleagues.

We all know that our world is fast becoming a global village, and that’s a good thing. Georgian is proud to be a leader in helping make it happen.

By MaryLynn West-Moynes, President and CEO of Georgian College
Appeared in the Barrie Examiner, Orillia Packet and Times, and Collingwood Enterprise Bulletin