What are the Information Needs and Behaviours for International Post-Secondary Students and How Can Information Literacy Ease their Process?


Education allows for people find out what their potential is while enhancing the individual’s “…health, improved living standards, and fuller social and political participation in society… [while increasing the] … fundamental role in human, social and economic development.” (UNESCO, 2011). For many Canadians, those who are entering post – secondary institutions, education is viewed as a way to improve their life through obtaining a degree that leads to more opportunity for better jobs, enhancement of their social and medical well – being. Yet, for those from other nations to Canada for post – secondary education is the only way to obtain such opportunities, however, their needs are more vulnerable because of various socio-cultural difficulties and expectations. This essay will be looking at the basic needs of international post-secondary students and finding the information literacy and services that can make his or her life easier when working towards a degree and eventually work. This is done so by observing such needs like education, housing, social and health, finance along with work during and after post-secondary.


Education Needs

Firstly, education is a major need for international students who are going to or already have applied to certain post-secondary institutions. Education is viewed to provide skills and knowledge that can help fulfill one’s living standards, his or her potential, give the individual resources to provide for their family, community and society while governments and academic institutions should administer access to learning opportunities to allow for people to continue to grow while bringing positive change (United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization, 2016). What many students need to decide is whether going to other nations will be beneficial within their academic and afterwards. For those who are planning to go to a Canadian university or college, many students have to choose a program as well as a university that has it. According to the Government of Ontario, it encourages perspective students to get a post-secondary brochure and calendar from the institution that displays programs, tuition, housing, and qualifications while faculty websites, which will dictate when will admission apply since the deadlines for every program are different (2016). At the federal level, the Government of Canada requires international students to apply for student permits if they want to study in Canada, no matter the province and city along with a deadline on when to apply to ensure students can be qualified at their school and enter Canada with the proper paper work along with being secure to enter the country (2016). Individual students should have to see on such guides on how to apply, how to prepare to study in Canada and for one’s arrival, checking times, what one needs to study when in Canada and what to do after one applies along with the proper documents and a help desk to answer any question (Government of Canada, 2015).

Once at a post – secondary institution, international students face academic, socio-cultural, and linguistic pressures once they come to the North American academia. Such pressure can come from familial ties, the social environment and oneself. Furthermore, many international students highly value how they perform within academia with the idea that they would “…do as good as, if not better than, they previously did in their own country.” (Chen, 1999, p. 53). Realistically when studying within an unfamiliar educational system, this is not the case because the role of one poor grade can lead to more due to the pressures of self and family to go way down on them that can lead to frustration, doubt and anxiety for future assignments and exams (Chen, 1999). Another major concern, as well as need, is that of the second language. For many students, being tested in TOEFL, and the French equivalent for post-secondary in Quebec, is one matter when entering Canada’s academia. Yet, there is such thing as second language anxiety that come about not only with daily life interactions with others, but, that of the academic interactions along with the technicalities (Chen, 1999). As a result, “…large numbers of graduates can’t conduct themselves well enough in English, Canada will lose out. Either the course standards will fall and students will be graduate with lower-quality degrees or more of them will fail and head back to their homelands bitter about Canadian education. Either way, Canada’s reputation for high-quality universities would suffer and we would miss out on the cultural and economic rewards international students bring.” (Dehaas, 2013). This is why many universities are attempting in finding ways to teach and encourage international students to use the services provided on campus. With the University of Ottawa, Morriset Library has reference staff that can help with searching subject matter, there are in-class lectures on how to use the library’s website and electronic research guides, workshops for all academic levels, web chat if one cannot make it to the library and appointment – made help with librarians in almost every discipline (n.d.a). The university also offers the Academic Writing Centre to ensure that student academic papers are properly written while giving advice on what to look for when editing and the transgressions if they plagiarize (n.d.). For many student’s, education is something that is extremely important. However, trying to be successfully in a different learning environment can be difficult and some will fail. For international students, there is a need for professors, librarians and the senior post – secondary officials not to look at just look at the financial resources and recognition, but, to find ways in keeping the students afloat and become involved citizens of their countries if they go back to Canada.



Housing is a major need for many students when planning on going to university. When it comes to international students, many universities encourage them to apply and stay in residence. There are some other universities that have housing service program, graduate housing, and off campus apartments that can lead to academic achieving because it can ease the mind of international students in being frustrated on a new environment and academic process (Poyrazli & Grahame, 2007). It always depends on the individual students wanting to live on or off campus. If a person wants to live on-campus, majority of universities have a housing residence office that deals with applications and tenant queries. One example is the University of Ottawa Housing Office that requires everyone to apply for one academic year, eight months, and if guaranteed for a bachelor or one room; apply before the deadline with a $700 deposit (2017). If they still want a room that is off campus, they can either look at off-campus University owned apartments or other apartments (University of Ottawa, n.d.). For international students to succeed, they need stability and program housing can aid with that. The real concern can be access to a post – secondary institution’s housing office, through the website and contact information, and how much the students have to pay  each month for their educational duration.


Social and Health Needs

The third needs for international students is that of their social and health needs which are intertwined. Studying in other countries, such as Canada, can help develop international post-secondary student’s experiences, increased opportunities such as communication, teamwork, analytical skills, amongst many, and lesson on their strengths weakness and how to do better that can aid them for future employment and better standards of living in all aspects of life. No matter what the profession the individual takes or what level of university or college, travelling and studying abroad can develop the “…ability to think critically, to be adaptive to emerging technologies, to become leaders in professional fields and to seek solutions in research.” (EduCanada, 2016). However, the reality for many international students when going to school abroad is the change in the academic environment, culture shock along with the need for them to adjust themselves in a “…sociocultural, environmental and psychological…” manner in order to handle what is going around them (Chen, 1999). As a result, many international students have an increase in anxiety, stress and more concerning issues of mental illness such as depression.  Charles P. Chen further states that the health concerns are linked to linguistic barriers that can have a lasting behavioural, emotional psychological affects for those who struggle with daily communications and academic terminology to educational performance pressure to be the best like at home and then getting poor grades, and sociocultural differences on how to speak with professors and fellow peers along with social activities on campus (1999). For services to be beneficial they have to be socially inclusive. This means the institutions have to incorporate within their services, students and professionals to come together and “…share norms, valies, and understanding which facilitates cooperation within or among groups.” (Caidi & Allard, 2005). If the students are going to Carleton or the University of Ottawa, then they can Google international student office with the university; both schools have brochures, websites and links to other important dates, offices classes and more. The University of Ottawa international house, on the website, there is a buddy program that allows Canadian, exchange and international students to gain experience, contacts, friendships, advice, explore Ottawa and have activities that can deal with social isolation (). The university and guide further encourages that students to use the campus health clinic for any nutritional. psychological, gynaecological, immune concern and more while sending them to the right health professional and office; there is an address and phone number or to go to other apartment organizations (University of Ottawa, 2016). Majority of universities have services for health, social clubs, international offices to come together to ensure a holistic aspect of the well – being of all are in a good common place. Yet, the vulnerability is that of information overload and the numerous places that an individual must look for to get the help or events that they need.


Financial and Employment Needs

Lastly, like many students who are going to North American university or college, international students have financial and employment needs and concerns. Moreover, if an individual does not have the financial resources to pay off tuition, textbooks, student health insurance, transportation, apartment rent, and food, then he or she will have survival mode especially for those who have been self-efficient and turned into a full – time student or for the little to no financial support from family (Chen, 1999). However, one way for a student to obtain financial support is through scholarships, grants, bursaries and loans. According to the Government of Canada’s Student Financial Assistance, there are scholarships, financial assistance from the federal and provincial level, grants and loans along with maintaining and repaying their loans in which students can find on Google; this just offers tools on where and how to get finance to help with the cost of post – secondary school tuition (n.d.). Global Affairs Canada, whom deals with foreign affairs and policy, actually provides their own international scholarships to non – Canadian students such as the Mitacs Globalink Research Award, Banting Postdoctoral Fellowship and the Postdoctoral scholarships – Partnership CNPq/Vale/Mitacs (2016). The provincial governments also provide financial assistance for international students. One example of this is with the Government of Ontario, when one types education and the province in Google, for which it has international students section within the University and College section within the government website. The financial section indicates that international students have three options: go to the financial and award office of the university or college to see what scholarships as well as bursaries, 75 Ontario scholarship and federal government financial support (2016).

The second need for international students based on financial resources is that of employment. Many students before and after they obtain their post – secondary degree are in need for them to gain job – related experience that volunteering may not always be able to give them. While studying in school, there are several programs that students can get into for work. However, as the Government of Ontario website states, depending on the job does the individual will need a permit or not such as having a job on campus versus having one off, respectively (2016). When looking at on campus student jobs, each university has different work programs that they students can have. For Example, the University of Ottawa has two sections, they have the student work – study program that has a variety of paid student jobs in the different academic programs that they gave for work experience as well as the general teach and research assistantships (n.d.b.; n.d.c.). At York University, in Toronto, Ontario, the university has numerous student job programs such as research program, Engagement program, work – study program and other part – time student jobs (n.d.). When it comes to off campus jobs, international students are required to get work visa. They can get this during their time in school. Additionally, the Government of Ontario has the application forms within its international student section while the Federal Government of Canada gives the actual permits; (2016; Citizen and Immigration Canada, 2016). There is a need for every student to get work experience to be able to have more work opportunities, stability as well as improvements within their health, economic and social standards.


In conclusion, education is viewed by many to be something that can develop and enhance “…fundamental role in human, social and economic development…” to allow for individuals to realize their potential while finding opportunities for financial needs along with social and health. Yet, there can be information overload, confusion and stress making them vulnerable at every step ranging from applications to get student visa’s and applying to post-secondary programs to lectures, to financial and mental well-being of the individual. There is a need for a checklist or better steps when looking at how to get the permit to what the individual university provides.



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Chen, C.P. (1999). Common Stressors Among International College Students: Research and

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within a Semi-Urban Campus Community. Journal Of Instructional Psychology, 34(1), 28-45.

United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (2016). Incheon Declaration

and Framework for Action for the implementation of Sustainable Development Goal 4: Ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all. Retrieved from: http://unesdoc.unesco.org/images/0024/002456/245656E.pdf

United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (2011). UNESCO and

Education: “Everyone has the right to Education.” Retrieved from: http://www.unesco.org/new/en/education/about-us/

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Success Service. Retrieved from: https://sass.uottawa.ca/en/writing

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of Ottawa. Retrieved from: https://international.uottawa.ca/en

University of Ottawa (n.d.). Housing Office. Retrieved from: http://www.uottawa.ca/housing/

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University of Ottawa (n.d.a). Workshops, Seminars and Tools. Library. Retrieved from:


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from: https://www.uottawa.ca/financial-aid-awards/work-study-program

York University (n.d.). Consider a Job on Campus. Retrieved from: http://careers.yorku.ca/students-and-new-grads/looking-for-a-job/consider-a-job-on-


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