With snow on the ground and exams on the mind, it is beginning to feel like that time of the year again.
As we approach the final weeks of the semester, most of us are excited about the holidays.
Whether it is last-minute Christmas shopping with highschool friends or baking holiday treats with family, most of us have something to look forward to this holiday season.
Unfortunately the same can not be said for all students on campus. This year international students face unique challenges due to COVID-19 restrictions.
Jane Desmond from Laurier International said, “the current pandemic has been very difficult for all of us, but it added additional challenges for our international students that remain in Canada.”
Some are not able to travel home due to the 14-day quarantine requirements, among other restrictions such as money and time.
This year has been challenging mainly because of the lack of social interactions. International students are not immune to the social effects of COVID-19. The difference is that most domestic students have access to family and friends whereas international students do not.
Domestic students do not have to wake up at 2 a.m. to talk to their families due to timezone differences or experience family events through photos. Domestic students also have the luxury of social interactions during the holidays.
International students on campus feel alone and isolated.
Anshul Khatri, a Laurier international student said, “I have a few friends but not much. One of my friends is on the Waterloo campus. He is also quite stressed about being alone.”
Khatri considers himself one of the lucky ones because he has relatives in Canada to stay with over the holidays.
Other than being alone, he thinks that nutrition is also an issue for international students.
“My friend has poor health habits and unfortunately I can not visit him right now,” said Khatri.
Khatri wishes his friend had more accountability and access to knowledge about nutrition so he could manage his health better.
“We have quite a few events prepared for the holidays. We invite the students to remain connected with us through our weekly newsletters so they can be aware of all the events we are hosting,” said Desmond.
This month many international students celebrated Diwali. Laurier International hosted an event for painting diyas.
Diyas painted at Laurier International’s event. Photo contributed by Sharna Emrith.
Laurier International will host a Christmas Dinner pick-up event, followed by a zoom meeting on December 10th. There are Coffee Club meetings every Monday at 9 p.m. and Thursday at 1:30 p.m.
However, there are no events planned for the holiday break yet.
There seems to be a disconnect between international students and Laurier International.
When speaking about the disconnect, Khatri said, “ Laurier has done some things but they are not specific for international students. For example, they made the LOCUS group public and the coffee program is not what it used to be.”
There need to be more programs aimed at international students because they have different needs than domestic students.
It is common knowledge that international students pay more for tuition than domestic students do. They also face unique struggles to adapt to Canada, the culture, the education system and so many more things.
Laurier international needs to ensure this group’s needs are being met because they are just as important as other students. They contribute a lot to this campus monetarily, but also academically and socially. They matter and deserve support.
“I went to coffee clubs but I realized that it’s not that much fun compared to socializing on campus,” said Khatri.
He thinks that Laurier International should ask about their interests and make outreach clubs tailored to that. That way they can socialize and find people to interact with who have similar interests.
“If the student feels that they do not see a program that addresses their needs, reach out to us with the suggestion,” said Desmond, “we would love to work with them in creating a program that can reach out to even more students.”
It is important that international students reach out and get their voices heard.
It is also important that domestic students also add pressure and hold our school responsible to care for all students, especially international students.
Laurier International acknowledges that international students face isolation issues. They plan to address it more with an awareness campaign called ‘Laurier stands with international students.’
This social media event will take place during International Education Week.
“In the end, the important thing is to remain connected,” said Desmond.
We can not let the struggles that COVID-19 has caused to divide us, but we also need to make sure that international students have support during the holidays this year.