App helps international students


The app Neelanjanmath created, iCent, helps international students adjust to life in Canada.

The app Neelanjanmath created, iCent, helps international students adjust to life in Canada.

Imagine this: you’re moving abroad to study in a different country. The move-in day is a month away. You ask yourself, what clothes do I bring? What do I do about my cell phone? What is the culture like? How will I get around the city?

These are just a few of the common questions international students ask.

Luckily, Ganesh Neelanjanmath has found a way to ease the transition for international students coming to Canada.

The Sheridan alumni created iCent, a free app that helps international students adapt to a new life in a new country.

iCent, which stands for International Centre, functions as a resource and communication channel for staff and students.

The information students need to know, like which clothes to bring for the winter, which textbooks to buy and which cell phone plans to purchase, are in the app.

“All this information is basically provided as part of the app to make it as easy as possible for them,” says Neelanjanmath. “It’s basically preparing themselves before they come.”

Some of the features of the app include a pre-departure checklist, a registration checklist for when they arrive, and important dates for the Sheridan term.

The app is completely customizable, meaning the college can change which icons appear in the home menu. As of now, there are about 20 to 25 features created for the app, all of which are accessible by the college.

“Sheridan, or any college for that matter, can login [to the backend] and say, ‘Oh, I want to enable this feature for students right now.’ So depending on what they think is the need for their college, they configure the app accordingly,” says Neelanjanmath. For example, they can replace the important dates feature with a career centre icon.

Neelanjanmath is no stranger to adjusting to a new life. He came to Sheridan from India in 2010 to study project management. He always knew he was an entrepreneur – and created his own business, Neel-Tech Inc., right after graduating.

“Basically, before I came to Canada, I had to make a choice of which country to go to. I always had this dream of studying abroad so I wanted to do a business of my own,” he said.

His dream came true when, while on an 18-month contract in Spain, he got accepted at Sheridan.

“It was a good pay in Spain but I quit because I wanted to study here,” he said.

Before studying at Sheridan, Neelanjanmath already had a degree in computer science and engineering from a university in India, and had experience in the work field.


According to Andrew Ness, the director of international services, many students from abroad do not come straight out of high school.

“Many of our international students have studied post-secondary in their home countries. So they come with degrees already,” says Ness. “Their exposure to post-secondary is not necessarily new, it’s comparative.”

One of the most common obstacles international students face, aside from the language barrier, is the difference in teaching methods. For some students, the way classes were taught in their country is very different from how Sheridan courses are structured.

Dawn Fei, a student from China, noticed this difference.

“In China we just listen to teacher and we do not often do group discussion or presentation. And now we have many chances to do it,” she says.

When it comes to education and learning, Sheridan does a lot of work in helping international students transition successfully.

Over the summer, Sheridan runs six pre-departure orientations – three in India and three in China. These sessions allow parents and students to meet International Centre staff and ask questions. Students receive information on how to be successful once they arrive at Sheridan, what happens in the classroom and tutoring services available on campus.

“Learning how to learn and that academic transition, the library tutoring services, they’re really brilliant in helping students,” says Ness.

International students may have a hard time transitioning academically, but Canada’s multiculturalism minimizes any culture shock.

The cities inside the GTA are so culturally diverse that international students can find food and products from their home country at grocery stores and malls.

Even when students do experience culture shock, the iCent app provides information about life in Canada, like currency, places of worship and groceries close to the college.

According to Ness, the majority (70 per cent) of international students are from India, followed by China and South Korea.

In September of 2015, more than 2,000 new international students started at Sheridan. And already, there are thousands of applications for January.

“I think the reason we’re able to attract so many international students is in part we’re just nice to students, so students feel comfortable here,” says Ness.

Neelanjanmath feels like he was well taken care of during his time at Sheridan.

“Any department, people are so nice that it’s hard to not smile. It was a pretty good experience for me. I really loved it,” he says.

Neelanjanmath says wanting to do something for Sheridan, for his community, is why he created iCent.

The success of the app has caught the attention of other colleges. Neelanjanmath is currently talking to Seneca College, Red River College and Conestoga College about the possibility of launching the app for their students.

Neelanjanmath’s passion for global mobility is seen through his desire to help international students transition successfully to Canada.

“[The app] has been really exciting for me,” said Ness. “The owner of the company is so dedicated to helping international students. He’s a super smart technical guy and the cool thing is he hires Sheridan co-op students to work on it.”

The iCent app can be downloaded in the Apple Store for iPhone and Google Play for Android users.