BY DAVID SALITURO
Sheridan College graduate Ganesh Neelanjanmath understands the challenges that international students go through. Now he is trying to help guide them on their journey in a new country.
Neelanjanmath, chief technology officer of Neel-Tech in Mississauga, has developed an app, iCent, for foreign students. The app acts as a guide to help them navigate the challenges that they face when trying to study in another country.
The app works closely with the International Student Centre at campuses across Canada, including Sheridan. “Basically we cater to the international office,” Neelanjanmath says, “because we know we want to solve their challenges in terms of communication and connectivity with students, and at the same time help students as well.”
Students are given access to iCent 30 to 60 days before they arrive in the country. It contains a digital version of the student handbook and information on what the student must do before coming to Canada.
“There is a pre-departure checklist, in terms of what to pack, what to carry, what to expect at the airport,” Neelanjanmath says. The app also lets the college know what time the student is arriving and on what flight so that they can arrange transportation to the campus.
As soon as the student arrives in Canada, iCent has a welcome booth at the airport where they can check in. They are also given a list of things to do now that they are in their new country.
“The arrival checklist helps students understand where they are supposed to go,” Neelanjanmath says. “Campus location, room number, who to meet, what to do, what documents to carry when they first arrive.” The iCent representatives at the airport will also remind the student to pick up their study permit and Social Insurance card so they avoid trips to Service Ontario centres later on.
Neelanjanmath understands well the problems that an international student can face when forced to figure out all these things themselves.
Arriving in Canada from India in 2010 to study Project Management at Sheridan, on his first day in the country he found out the challenges ahead of him. Unable to get a job in the school cafeteria because he didn’t have a SIN card, the service centre wouldn’t give him a card without a letter from an employer.
“I was caught between two parties, trying to figure out how things worked and correlate how things would have worked if I was in India,” he says. Experiences like this made Neelanjanmath realize that the next generation of international students needed a guide. He decided he could be that guide. That is what led him to develop iCent.
Sheridan has a large audience that could use iCent. Rama Ishak, international student coordinator at Sheridan, says that iCent has made life easier for students. “So now the students, instead of having to come to the office with their study permit,” she says, “they can take a picture of their permit and submit it electronically. Before I had to send several different e-mails and handouts to give to students which they could lose. Now it is all on the app.”
From a service that was only available at Sheridan, the app is now on more than 200 campuses across Canada.
For features of the iCent app, click the link below: