Jan. 20, 2022

Student club sets up scholarship for international students

University of Calgary Chinese Students and Scholars Association helps other student-colleagues complete their studies in Canada
Students in the University of Calgary Chinese Students and Scholars Association
Students in the University of Calgary Chinese Students and Scholars Association; photo taken prior to COVID-19 pandemic. Courtesy University of Calgary Chinese Students and Scholars Association

For international students, studying in Canada can be a life-changing experience — but it also can bring a variety of challenges. In spring 2021, the student members of the University of Calgary Chinese Students and Scholars Association (UCCSSA) were looking for a meaningful way to support new international students.

The UCCSSA established the UCalgary Chinese Students and Scholars Association Award. Each year, this award provides $2,500 to four continuing international undergraduate students in any faculty. The scholarship is one of the first of its kind initiated by students; it aims to provide financial support to international students who need help to complete their studies in Canada.

Chen Fang ‘21

Chen Fang ‘21

"Since we are one of the first clubs to establish a scholarship for international students, we are hoping to demonstrate leadership and commitment to serving the international student community at UCalgary,” says Chen Fang, the 2021 graduate who spearheaded the initiative.

“In the meantime, we are hoping that by establishing the scholarship, more and more students on campus can get to know our club and maybe participate in our events to learn more about the Chinese culture,"

Helping international students reach their goals

For international students, studying in Canada is a chance to gain a quality education while experiencing a different style of teaching, finding new career opportunities, and discovering new cultures. With every adventure comes challenges, and these students are often pulled out of their comfort zones as they encounter a language barrier, culture shock, and the cost of living.

"For most international students, the biggest challenge about studying in Canada is adjusting to a new language and culture,” says Fang. “Many of them have limited English skills and are not accustomed to Canadian society. This hinders them from connecting with locals and decreases their opportunities for employment in Canada.”

Like many other students, international students can struggle to fund their education — a challenge that has been magnified by the pandemic.

It is important to break the stereotype that all international students come from wealthy families and recognize that some must financially support themselves.

“I personally know of an international student who had to work a full-time retail job during the school year and summer months to pay for his tuition,” says Fang. “He was laid off due to the COVID-19 pandemic and had to borrow money from his relatives to pay for his tuition and continue his studies.

"In our club, we know of many international students who have similar experiences, therefore UCCSSA hopes to provide support to ease some of these financial burdens by establishing these awards and scholarships.”

Awards, scholarships and bursaries, such as the one offered by the UCCSSA, help international students focus on getting the most out of their university experience in Canada. There are also a variety of services and programs at UCalgary designed to support international students, such as International Student Services and the Welcome Centre

Building on success: International students contribute to our community

In many cases, international students remain in Canada after graduation and continue to have a positive impact on their communities — socially, culturally, and economically.

One example is Fang himself. He came to Canada as an international student, graduated in June 2021, and is currently working as a registered nurse with Alberta Health Services. Fang is one of the more than 50,000 international students who become permanent residents of Canada each year.

"Expanding upon the skills I was taught, I have since moved on to lend my expertise at a rural northern Alberta hospital,” says Fang. “I’m working in the frontlines and fighting against the pandemic in a less privileged community.”

If you would like to learn about how you can financially support UCalgary international students, please contact Meagan Podilchak, associate director of development. Learn about other ways to financially contribute to a caring campus community for students. 

International students looking for help adjusting to studies at UCalgary and life in Canada can access a variety of programs and supports provided by International Success Services.