International education is becoming big business in Canada with more students from foreign lands than ever before choosing to study in this country.

But how do schools benefit from having these students studying here and what do the students stand to gain?

For Catherine Hua, an 18-year-old student at Mother Teresa Catholic secondary school in London, studying in Canada was less expensive than the United States. Hua is from China and has been at MTS for two years.

"I was thinking about going to the States but first, it's too expensive, and second, I want to go to some other places, like to see different things and different places," she says.

"In order to be like a global and international student you have to go, like to Europe and probably some day in Africa. So that's basically what I'm thinking about."

Hua is part of a growing trend where school boards actively recruit international students. In many cases, it's to reverse declining enrollment and funding shortfalls.

At the London District Catholic School Board, Supt. Ana Paula Fernandes says it's to enhance cultural experiences and provide an opportunity for students to learn with and from others.

“Given the fact that we live increasingly in a global society, we want to prepare our students," she says.

That preparation begins at the secondary level and from there it gets bigger.

According to the Canadian Bureau of International Education, from 2010 to 2017, Canada saw a 119 per cent increase in international students. International enrollment is now at nearly a half million in Canada.

At the main campus of Western University, 4,500 international students make up 15 per cent of full timers.

Third-year health sciences student Amal Muselmani, from Lebanon, says international students pay more but she believes it's worth the investment.

"I'm getting a better education and I'm doing more things. If I was in Lebanon, I don't think I would be volunteering as much as I'm volunteering here," she says.

"I don't think I would even have a part-time job in Lebanon. I have a part-time job here. Like, I've been working for the past two years and I feel like this experience is amazing.”

International education doesn't come cheap. At Western, tuitions range from $30,000 to $40,000 per academic year, compared to about $7,000 for domestic students. And while the stereotype suggests well-to-do backgrounds, a soon-to-be published survey at Western reveals 81 per cent of international graduate students struggle financially.

"The financial struggles do impact their academic development and it adds stress, significant stress to their lives," says Krystyna Wierczerzak, chairperson of International Graduate Students Issues Committee.

Western says its international program is revenue neutral.

“International students at Western provide a lot of diversity and a lot of talent to the London community," says Julie McMullin, vice provost, International Education at Western University.

At Fanshawe College, international students make up 27 to 30 per cent of full-time enrollment.

The average tuition is about $14,000, while the college receives about $6,300 for every domestic student.

"What we work towards is meeting labour market needs and so you know there's always a balance between the two,” says Wendy Curtis, Fanshawe International executive director.

"What's the interest from our local market and from our international market and then what's the interest of employers?"

Some 51 per cent of Canada's international students asked in Canada's Performance in International Education, 2018 International Students in Canada survey, said they would like to stay.

Muselmani says she hopes to make Canada her home after graduation. While high schooler Catherine Hua has been accepted to New York University and will soon be moving on.