International Student Experience​ – #SLCcommunityhacks

International Experience, Brockville, St Lawrence College, Ontario, Social Hackathon

Canada ranks fourth as a destination for international students. The three-day campus International Experience roadshow built upon the work of the Social Hackathon at St. Lawrence College.

Here we explore the three-day roadshow that set out to hack ways to improve the international student experience.

Future permanent residents

Richard Webster, Internationalization Lead at St. Lawrence College notes that 51% of international students expect to apply for permanent residency. These represent our future workforce.

“Ekta Singh, Equity and Inclusion Specialist at St. Lawrence College, described why she believes this is important. “[W]e’ve brought together a diverse group of members not only from the college but also from the community to sit down together to collaborate, to talk, to chat, to have conversations about the ways in which we can improve the experience for our international students here at the college. And I think for me one of the most special aspects was that we actually had international students participate as judges with us. I think that was really meaningful for people in the audience to hear their perspectives as well.” 

The winning pitches

International Experience, Cornwall, St Lawrence College, Ontario, Social Hackathon

Part of the fun of a hackathon is the competitiveness that comes with the pitches to a panel of judges. Each team had five minutes to pitch. The pitches were varied in the approach; PowerPoint slides, a role play, or a series of flip chart sheets.

The winners in the respective cities were

  • Cornwall – Hello Future Passport can help international students develop quick, direct and meaningful connections.
  • Brockville – Welcome Home Experience looked to address the fact that there are more international students than beds available on the Brockville campus
  • Kingston – Everybody At The Table (EATT) – An SLC intranet portal to help international students cater to different cultures with crowdsourced tips from 2nd-year students.

The quality of the pitches were excellent. Among the winners, the Hello Future Passport team had also investigated gamification funding through Team Cornwall. The Welcome Home Experience (WE) aligned their proposal with the SLC pillar of belonging.

Community engagement

This Social Hackathon model both looks at the employability skills of students, while in parallel strengthening the engagement between the local communities and the college campuses. It was terrific to listen to Sunita Gupta from the Kingston Immigration Partnership (KIP) describing the Hello Campaign or Melissa Francis from Leeds Grenville Immigration that highlighted the We are neighbours campaign.

International Experience

“This has really been an important conversation to have because we’ve seen a large change in our student demographics over the past few years,” explain SLC International Lead, Richard Webster. “So, it creates a really exciting time at the college and it really important opportunity to be improving the experience for all students and not just international but our Canadian students as well.”

“[W]e have a much more diverse student body than we used to. The other piece to this is that we need to equip our students to be successful, not only within the classroom in this new diverse dynamic, but we also need to equip them to be successful in the workplace. So, to have those intercultural competency skills and that’s seen as a key skill for the future as well.”

International Experience, Kingston, St Lawrence College, Ontario, Social Hackathon

“We had a really fantastic turnout of community partners, students, staff and faculty and we all came up with some really great ideas on how we’re going to improve the international student experience through community engagement. I was really happy to be part of it, part of a really fun team that organized and delivered these hackathons and I look forward to implementing the ideas moving forward,” concluded Jamie Puddicombe, Manager of Skills Training Economic Development.

This is just one step along a journey of internationalization. We pledge to seek ways in which the thinking that went into these pitches can be built into the college’s internationalization strategy.