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Abstract

Recent policy changes in Canada highlight the strategic role International Students (IS) in the country’s economic development and future prosperity. With the release of Canada’s first international education strategy, the federal government has intimately tied international education to the domestic economy by attracting and retaining skilled workers to prepare Canada for the global market place. IS are particularly desirable candidates for permanent residency because their Canadian credentials, proficiency in at least one official language, and their relevant Canadian work experience is assumed to allow them to integrate more easily into the labour force upon graduation. Through 11 focus groups with 48 IS from two post-secondary institutions in the province of Ontario, we explored the adjustment of IS as they adapt to Canada and transition from student to worker. Thematic analysis suggests a disconnect between policy makers’ assumptions and the lived experiences of IS in Canada. Specifically, we find that IS’ integration into Canadian society into the domestic labour market is hindered by adjustment difficulties pertaining to language abilities, poor connectedness to host communities, and perceived employer discrimination against IS. We offer policy recommendations for how international education can better prepare IS for the Canadian labour market.

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