Forget taking students out to bars to develop senses of belonging — the best way to connect them to Canada seems to be through volunteering.
Evan Worman, a sociology student at the University of Alberta, is researching the link between international students’ sense of belonging, academic success, and desire to immigrate to Canada to their volunteer experience. So far, he’s found that international students who volunteer regularly have more positive responses than those who don’t.
“(Students who volunteer) are almost twice as likely to say that they will be immigrating to Canada,” Worman said. “They’re reporting much higher academic success … (and) having a lot less difficulty finding things to do in Canada.”
Since sending out links for the survey through email, displaying posters, and making a Reddit post, he has received more than 150 responses. So far, the data reveals a weak positive correlation between volunteering and a sense of belonging, meaning that the more students volunteered the more they felt at home in Canada. He also found a weak correlation that shows that the longer international students stay in Canada, the less at home they feel.International Student Experiences
The survey is still ongoing, and more responses are required to reach the minimum of 200 needed to accurately represent the international student body at the U of A. The survey will remain open until the end of May.
Worman said he was inspired to investigate this issue after he volunteered with the International Services Centre on campus. After taking a group of students off-campus to volunteer, one of them told him something that surprised him.
“One of them had said to me afterwards that they had learned more about Canada in that one day of volunteering than they had the rest of the time they were here,” Worman said. “That really made me deliberately start thinking about what we were doing at the International Centre, and as a university overall.”
By conducting this research, Worman hopes that event programmers at the U of A begin to think critically about the impact their events are having, and whether that impact matches their intent. This means that international student programming in the future could begin to look more like a trip to a food bank instead of a karaoke night.
“If the intention behind these events are to get people to want to come back to the U of A, or to immigrate to Canada, maybe there’s a better way to do that,” Worman said.