by Jessica Carroll
We all know the NPSIA is one of the best schools for Canadian students, but what is the draw for international students? When I was considering NPSIA last year, I found it most helpful to get answers from previous international students. I interviewed two international students, Morio Fukunaga and Samantha Dwamena-Mante, at NPSIA, and a NPSIA alumni, Emeka Ekosimba (class of 2009). I asked about why they chose NPSIA, what they feel the benefits of an education at NPSIA are, what some of the challenges of being an international student are.
The common theme from the students and alumni were that they discovered NPSIA through some personal connection to the school or to Carleton University. Emeka was previously a student at Carleton and had several friends at the university. Morio did his undergraduate degree in Canada and was told about NPSIA from a professor. Myself and Samantha began looking at NPSIA through advice from friends. The fact that NPSIA is in Canada’s capital city is a huge advantage for the international students, as compared to other international affairs programs in Canada. This allows students to work with different international organizations since there is such an international presence in Ottawa.
The one common disadvantage that most of us feel as international students is whether the degree is applicable should we choose to work in our home countries. Emeka, who is a native of Nigeria, was concerned that his degree did not have enough of an African focus. This has probably since changed due to the collaborative program with the Institute of African Studies. Morio, also mentioned that returning home to Japan to receive his degree may give him more experience that is relevant there, while I have the same concerns about working in the United States. Another common issue that was brought up is that much of the program is put in a Canadian focus with the assumption everyone is knowledgeable about the Canadian system. This is to be expected for international students; it is after all a Canadian University.
Despite the few challenges, most of the students feel there are significant benefits to being an international student at NPSIA. One benefit that all students mentioned was getting to learn about how Canadian society works because it is such an inclusive society and can be very different from our own. It is also a benefit to get an outside perspective on your home country, as well as getting to “an emergency country expert” as Emeka put it when needed in class. The academic rigour of the program is also an advantage and a welcome challenge to all students. Emeka, who is still in Canada and working with the Provincial Government of Alberta, credits the networks made at NPSIA to helping him find a job after work, however he points out that he became a permanent resident after his first year in the program.
Overall the students enjoyed their time at NPSIA and would advise others to really take in the opportunity to be in a new and different environment. Ottawa and NPSIA have a lot to offer students and it is important to use these opportunities. Even if a student doesn’t stay in Canada, the experience can offer unique insight into a different system and culture.