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U of R school of choice for high number of international grad students.

By Costa Maragos Posted: June 7, 2016 6:00 a.m.

Ebithal Alshabib (l) is from Saudi Arabia. Ella Mikkola is from Finland. Both are part of a rising number of international students choosing the U of R for their graduate studies.
Ebithal Alshabib (l) is from Saudi Arabia. Ella Mikkola is from Finland. Both are part of a rising number of international students choosing the U of R for their graduate studies. Photo by Trevor Hopkin - U of R Photography

The University of Regina continues to be the school of choice for a high number of top-notch international graduate students.

For the third year in a row, the U of R has had the highest percentage of graduate students who are from outside Canada, according to statistics compiled by Macleans Magazine’s annual university rankings.
 
In 2014 (the latest statistics available), 50.3 per cent of graduate students at the U of R came from outside the country, according to Macleans.
 
That consistently high ranking might not be a surprise to students Ella Mikkola, who is from Finland, and Ebithal Alshabib, who is from Saudi Arabia.
Alshabib is working on her PhD in Molecular Microbiology. She’s investigating the link between bacteria ability to eat DNA and infection, studying the regulation of competence genes in salmonella. She started her PhD program in January, 2013.

Ebithal - Student Photo
Ebithal Alshabib is working on her PhD in Molecular Microbiology.


“I can describe the U of R in three words; “International, collaborative and inspiring,” says Alshabib. “I was and am still interested in the research conducted by Dr. Andrew Cameron. I was lucky to be his first grad student in the U of R. He is a great scientist, a wonderful teacher and an amazing principle investigator.”

Mikkola arrived at the U of R in 2015 as an exchange student, enrolled in Film.  She’s not only studied the craft, she’s practiced it. Her film Saari is making the film festival circuit and won for best overall at the Flamingo Film Festival in Florida.
 
She will now pursue her graduate studies this fall in the Faculty of Media Art, and Performance.  

“When I came here as an exchange student, my intention was only take some film classes for fun, since I had been interested in film before, but never actually studied it,” says Mikkola.

“After studying two semesters in the film program and getting positive reinforcement from couple of my instructors, I decided to drop journalism, which was my earlier major, and follow my passion for film and apply to the graduate program here.”

Mikkola and Alshabib are playing a major role in the future of Saskatchewan’s economy.

Overall, the rising number of international students at the U of R is giving the city a major economic boost.

According to the University of Regina Economic Impact Study released in January 2016, the approximately 1900 international students at the university add about $40 million to the local economy.

There are long-term payoffs. As the Impact Study points out, international students such as Mikkola and Alshabib, have the potential to contribute a lot more, post-graduation.
 
“International students who remain in Regina lend their skills, contacts and unique perspective to our export-oriented economy. Those who return home provide invaluable contacts for our research and business community. These alumni ambassadors form a unique cluster of Saskatchewan advocates, connecting our economy to the world,” states the Impact Study.

Alshabib sees the potential for collaboration through her research.

“The Faculty of Graduate Studies and Research is seeking good opportunities for us to improve our research experience. The Shen Kuo research exchange program set a great example for their effort to establish and endorse international collaboration. I participated in this program last year and it was a great opportunity to present my research at two Chinese universities,” says Alshabib.

Mikkola - Student Photo
Ella Mikkola is following her passion for film and has applied for the graduate program at the U of R.

For Mikkola, it’s the teaching that’s been the biggest attraction.

“The instructors challenge us to think outside of the box and they push us to get the best out of us. It is very important to have an environment like this that supports creative thinking and is challenging
at the same time,” says Mikkola.

The U of R has a long history of welcoming international students. 

"Internationalization is at the forefront of the University of Regina and our international students build on our academic excellence and diversity. Students come to Regina and instantly feel at home, because there is already a large group of international students who help them settle.” says Dr. Armin Eberlein, Dean of Faculty of Graduate Studies and Research.

“We are working with multiple funding agencies to bring highly qualified students to the U of R, such as the African Leaders of Tomorrow Scholarship Program, China Scholarship Council, and the Vietnam International Education Development.”

As the U of R continues to attract a record number of international students, Ashabib has advice for those considering doing their graduate work here.

“I would encourage them to do so. My experience of studying at the U of R is very positive. I’ve enjoyed learning, doing research, networking, sharing my research, exchanging knowledge and getting experience.”