by Devin R. Heroux
International students are arriving at the University of Regina in unprecedented numbers. Over 1,300 students from 61 countries now call Regina home.
Fabian Paez is one of them. While growing up in Bogotá, Colombia, Paez had two dreams: he wanted to visit his uncle in Regina and to learn English. After obtaining a marketing degree in the warm confines of Latin America, he decided to head north. Far north.
“My friends and family thought I was crazy. Saskatchewan?” said Paez. “I only applied to Regina.”
Paez has been in Saskatchewan for just over a year now and is busy refining his English while he completes a master’s degree in business administration. He is also working as graphic designer for the UR International office. As for what he’ll do when his studying is over, Paez is still thinking about it.
“I don’t know if I’ll stay here or not, but right now I’m enjoying learning English, being around great people, and getting a degree,” said Paez. “Other than the cold, this feels like home.”
Working alongside Paez is a host of international employees; the group of 20 that work at UR International is made up of people from all parts of the globe, including Australia, Finland and Spain.
Martha Mathurin is an international student from St. Lucia and an administrative assistant at UR International. She said she has seen a huge increase in interest from the international community towards the U of R.
“Over the past year we have made a lot of changes to make this university seem like an attractive choice for students around the world,” said Mathurin. “From our attitude, to the office we work in, we want to give our students the impression that this is where they want to be.”
Mathurin and Paez both admit to having fears about the unknown, especially having come from warm countries.
“There are so many nerves and unknowns when you are first getting settled. It’s cold, there are so many new things. So it’s nice that I can relate to (the new students) and they appreciate it,” said Mathurin.
With international student enrolment higher than ever, the U of R is slowly finding its place on the map. A lot of the interest may be credited to UR International director Livia Castellanos. A native of Mexico, Castellanos has been director for just over a year and has made a number of changes to the program. The biggest change is the attitude towards the students.
“They are our clients. Providing them with the best service we can and making them feel welcome has to be our focus,” said Castellanos. “They have so much to offer our university.”
Castellanos is a busy woman these days. International students continue to apply to the U of R and 200 more are on their way next year. Her only concern is that some people downplay the importance of international students on a campus.
“I think a lot people think we get these international students here for their money. The truth is, they add so much to the diversity of our university and city,” said Castellanos. “That’s what this is about, becoming truly international.”
Above: UR International Student Employees
Photo by UR International Office