PHOTO BY SARA SHEIKH / THE SPUTNIK PHOTOGRAPHY
As of November 3, the Government of Canada allowed Designated Learning Institutions (DLIs), such as Laurier, to reopen to international students who plan to come to Canada after October 20—granted that both the university and the students meet certain criterias.
Universities must have a COVID-19 readiness plan that has been approved by the province before students can travel to Canada. Laurier’s name can now be found on the list of DLIs with an approved plan on the Canadian Government website.
International students, on the other hand, must have a study permit, or be approved for one. Students seeking to enter Canada to study remotely must also meet the conditions determined by Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada.
While students plan their return to Canada, many international students are currently continuing their fall semester abroad from their home countries. Unfortunately, time differences have been a major issue for students living more than a few hours away.
Nafisa Tasnuva, a second year international student in the user experience design program has to regularly adapt to the 9 hour difference between the Brantford campus and Dubai. She is one of the many international students finding the time zone difference a challenging part of the remote semester.
“It’s really messed up my schedule as a whole… I can’t even, you know, wake up at the usual timing either because I do have a few live classes that I need to attend, like the web design class, which specifically takes place during, like, 3 to 6am for me,” said Tasnuva.
Fortunately, there is a program in place to accommodate and support returning international students who are looking to return to Canada either to overcome time difference challenges and/or internet restrictions, or to complete any in-person components of their studies. Laurier International goes into detail on the university website about what to expect from the program.
The program is called the COVID-19 Pandemic Safe Travel, Arrival and Quarantine (STAQ) Program. It encompasses a variety of features to provide advice and support on safe travel and arrival for returning students. Transportation from Toronto airports will be provided, and students belonging to any of the Brantford, Kitchener and Waterloo campuses will complete their 14-day quarantine requirement in Laurier’s Bricker Residence on the Waterloo campus.
The program also includes daily health and wellness monitoring, access to health services and remote learning supports, as well as testing for the coronavirus. On Laurier’s website, the program cost is listed as $1000 + HST, with possible additional fees if the student brings any accompanying, immediate family members.
Photo by Sara Sheikh / The Sputnik Photography
While many international students look to this program for support upon return, other students are looking to adapt to their new environment abroad for a longer period of time.
Jada Phillips, a third year student in the Laurier-Sussex program, settled down in Brighton, England, in late September to continue her studies with the University of Sussex. In her time there, while she navigates academics and her new environment, she has also noticed how the pandemic has been shaping her experience.
“This whole pandemic had been a really big learning opportunity, I guess, a reckoning of sorts. I feel like I’ve learned a lot more about myself and the world around me. I definitely have a lot of personal growth…” said Phillips, “the worst part about staying abroad, during the pandemic – obviously not being able to do everything I want, and as far as socializing, and like, going out and being involved.”
“And, I guess the uncertainty is really nerve-wrecking – not knowing, what exactly is going to happen, even like, a month from now,” she said.
When Wilfrid Laurier University officially discontinued all in-person classes on March 16, international students were immediately thrown into the first of the many unexpected changes that would follow throughout the year. The loss of in-person classes—the ones that many students had especially moved to Canada for—were cancelled.
But this was only the beginning.
On March 18, students were expected to have completely moved out of residence. Although international students were given additional time to get their things in order, many were unprepared for the abrupt need for relocation.
“It was kind of a rush against time to find a place to stay until I could get back to my country. So, I was pretty much stranded in Canada for a good two months before I could actually, finally return,” said Tasnuva, “Fortunately, I was able to stay with some relatives for the duration of that time.”
Shortly after the end of the winter semester, classes in the spring semester were delivered remotely and the academic year of 2019-2020 finally came to an end. Meanwhile, many students returned to their home country to be with their families as the pandemic spread globally.
With concerns about the future and operating in an unknown terrain, all Laurier students are facing the countless changes and challenges that the pandemic has brought to life. Students studying abroad may feel more concerned than others, as they work against an additional set of obstacles that come with the challenge of navigating these changes from afar. In these times, such different obstacles call for different supports.
Laurier’s Student Wellness Centre is continuing to operate remotely, and is a mental wellness support that remains available to all Laurier students regardless of location. Similarly, the Laurier International have also been working remotely, and can be contacted for support or questions. More information about returning to Canada during this time and student supports are available on the university website.