The International Centre
In its early days, as Queen’s strove to be a national university, moving beyond Canada’s borders proved to be a great challenge. In 1960-61, for example, Queen’s student body of 3,121 consisted of only 220 international students, the majority of whom came from the United States, England and the West Indies.
The 1960s brought change. Queen’s tripled in size and opened a graduate faculty that offered the kind of focused education in law, business and disciplines such as political studies and economics that might attract foreign students. As a nation celebrating its centenary, Canada began to reach out to the world. Agencies such as the Canadian International Development Agency and the Canadian University Service Overseas sought to build bridges around the world.
More international students came to Queen’s. A Jamaican student studying economics at Queen’s, Karl Bennett (Arts’62), wrote a report suggesting that the university open an “international house” to help international students acculturate to their new social and learning environment. Faculty members lent their support to the idea.
The International Centre finds a home
In 1962, the idea received a powerful boost from the Kingston Rotary Club. Rotarian Edward Churchill generously purchased a house on University Avenue to house Queen’s new International House. New and continuing international students now had a place to seek out assistance for everything from housing to language training. The house also offered a venue for international students to celebrate their cultural diversity and at the same time, share it to the Queen’s community.
Sensing the potential of expanding the university’s international appeal, Principal Corry reinforced the movement. In 1966, the “house” became a “centre” in the Students’ Memorial Union, where it has remained to this day. The Union, later expanded into the John Deutsch University Centre, placed the International Centre at the crossroads of student life at Queen’s. The centre’s official opening in January 1966 featured a gala of cultural diversity that included Chinese lion dances, sitar playing and Scottish reels.
Under dynamic directors Kaspar Pold (1970-82), Wayne Myles (1982-2014), Susan Anderson Steele (2014-16) and Jyoti Kotecha (2016-present) the centre constantly refined its services. It produced a handbook, Living in Canada, for newcomers to Queen’s. It offers classes in conversational English, welcomes new arrivals at the train station and escorts them on their first Kingston shopping trips. It has, at the same time, constantly redefined and expanded its mandate. Its initial dedication to welcoming international students to life at Queen’s has branched out into cultural outreach — building awareness of cultural diversity in local high schools, offering cultural cooking classes — and to the facilitation of Queen’s students venturing out onto the international stage themselves.
Growing internationalism at Queen’s
In 1984, an international programs office was established, followed in 1997 by an education abroad adviser. Canadian-born Queen’s students were thereby encouraged to seek out exchange programs at a growing array of universities. The centre also provides tutorials for outbound Queen’s students so that they may arrive at their destinations prepared for the culture that awaits them.
By the time it celebrated its 50th anniversary in 2012, Queen’s University International Centre (QUIC), as it became known in 2004, had become a vital force for the internationalization and cultural diversification of Queen’s. Partnering with the university’s Human Rights Office, it has developed a program for all members of the Queen’s community in “intercultural competency training,” key to promoting diversity on campus. At the same time, its doors in the JDUC are always open to students in search of a chat, a cup of tea or a game of table tennis.
By that anniversary year of 2012, Queen’s was hosting more than 2,000 international students, while 2,000 Queen’s students had found international study opportunities, ranging from the Bader International Study Centre at Herstmonceux Castle in rural England to Fudan University in booming Shanghai.