International team guides students through “leap of faith”

Published in Momentum Fall 2021

Students from 118 countries, making up 28 per cent of the student body, are studying at Mohawk College. Each has made a “leap of faith,” says Dean of International and Partnerships Anuraj Bajwa.

The first point of contact for students and families—the international face of Mohawk College—are the eight market specialists who work in key regions.

Market specialists hold recruitment fairs, predeparture orientations, and meetings with families. Having that personal connection is key, says Bajwa.

“Families want to know their children are in good hands with us. That is a huge responsibility.”

The pandemic has meant all those relationships have to be formed online—sometimes in the middle of the night here, depending on time zones.

A great deal of effort also goes into building relationships with key stakeholders in the city, including housing providers, banks, municipal agencies, transit and police, so that students from abroad feel welcomed and safe in Hamilton, says Bajwa.

“It’s a big leap of faith they are taking in Canada, Ontario and Mohawk.”

The vast majority—63 per cent—of Mohawk’s international students come from India. Bajwa says the college is working to diversify the mix.

“We are doing constant number-crunching about demographics, where students are coming from and what they are studying to see where new markets are possible.”

But there is ever-increasing competition from global destinations, including the United Kingdom, Australia, New Zealand and the United States.

“We first talk about Canada, then Ontario, then we talk about Hamilton and Mohawk.”

Bajwa has an extensive background in international education and is a permanent resident with family. When he arrived in Canada from India, he did a one-year graduate certificate at Georgian College.

Market Specialists Vinay Joshi, who works with students in South Asia, and David Thompson, who handles the African, Caribbean and U.S. markets, are both Mohawk graduates who came as international students.

“We really understand what it means to come from overseas and study in Canada,” said Thompson, who is from Nigeria.

“I think it adds credibility to what we are saying because we have lived that path,” said Joshi, who hails from India. “I had 30 choices after I chose Canada. But choosing Mohawk and Hamilton was one of the best decisions of my life.”

As they walk students through studying in Canada and the application process to Mohawk, they serve as examples, says Thompson.

“In us are the dreams of what students can see themselves become. That’s an education, a good job and becoming a permanent resident or a citizen in Canada.”

Photo caption: Market Specialists David Thompson and Vinay Joshi