Intro INTRO Cape Breton Island : Unlikely Gateway to the West — A struggling island on Canada’s east coast somehow becomes a world destination for international students. Rampant development of the eastern world has influenced and empowered a new generation of young adults to look west for a chance at a better life. Focused on education, and many on the possibility of immigration, they come to Canada in droves, spilling out from the nation’s epicentres to even the most forgotten places. Now, this influx of international students offers Cape Breton a new hope — a tangible opportunity for growth and renewal in the once vibrant region. In the island’s post-industrial era plagued by economic downturn, record unemployment and the record outmigration of youth and skilled workers, the in-migration of these students seems like a perfect fit. But how does this dynamic play out in reality? What does it mean for the students? What does it mean for Cape Bretoners? Can this unlikely relationship work? And can it last? THE ISLAND Cape Breton Island is part of the province of Nova Scotia, and is divided geographically into four counties — Cape Breton, Inverness, Richmond and Victoria. Cape Breton county, or the Cape Breton Regional Municipality (CBRM), accounts for close to 75% of the island’s overall population of approximately 135,000 people. This story is set in the CBRM’s former steel-making city of Sydney, the former coal-mining town of Glace Bay and some distinct communities and neighbourhoods within each of these small urban areas. According to data acquired through the CBRM mayor’s office, the municipality has Canada’s highest urban unemployment rate — 18.6% in the spring of 2013. The municipality also has Canada’s highest outmigration rate — losing 15% of its population in the last 15 years.