THUNDER BAY - Marcus Santana is fearing his first Canadian winter.
The 25-year-old arrived in Thunder Bay from Sao Paulo, Brazil on Saturday to attend Lakehead University this fall and while he’s only here until December for the university’s English program, he’s a bit wary of the coming weather.
“The infrastructure of the cities and the people and just the weather is so different,” he said Thursday afternoon at LU’s orientation session for international students at the Hangar.
Santana chose to come to Lakehead to improve his English after he completed his engineering undergraduate degree in Brazil. The Thunder Bay school was recommended to him from a friend studying in the city.
He said living in a new country is difficult to describe.
“You meet new people, make new friends and it’s another language,” said Santana. “It’s all so different.”
Lakehead is seeing a record number of international students this year with 300 first-time undergrad students for a total of 700. They’ve come from 44 countries including China, Brazil, India and Saudi Arabia.
Associate director of Lakehead’s international program Nancy Gallo says the program has been growing every year and she believes the university’s smaller class sizes and the area’s natural environment are some of the big draws for students.
And with many coming from large metropolitan cities, they were looking for a smaller city environment when choosing a university.
“They are looking for a more intimate, more nurturing experience,” said Gallo, adding she believes nature is the No. 1 benefit for the students.
“A lot of them have already said they have never felt such clean air or seen such a great natural environment,” she said.
Having international students come to Thunder Bay to study is also beneficial for the community, Gallo said.
“Every time we bring in students from another culture, it enriches us. It brings us new business opportunities. It brings us new employment opportunities,” she said.
The orientation session included a community fair so incoming students could get to know the campus and how to access services in the city from banking to health care.
Lakehead University Student Union president Ian Kaufman said they were on hand to inform students about bus passes, health plans and the food bank amongst other support services.
“International students have some unique issues that they face,” he said. “They face really high tuition. There’s a big cultural shift … we want to make sure they are treated fairly and get the supports they need.”
Orientation for all LU students began Thursday with activities running until Sept. 10.
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