As the start of the academic session looms for universities across Canada, international students must make hard decisions regarding their academics.

The Federal Order in Council for reducing the risk of exposure to coronavirus in Canada outlines travel restrictions for foreign citizens. The order was due to expire on July 31, but was further extended to August 31st with no added exemption, meaning international students still can’t enter the country.

Madeline Berry, a St. Thomas University student, was hopeful she will be able to start her third year of university on campus but has been told ‘No’ by border officials.

“I called the border agent and hearing that I might be considered a discretionary traveler forced me to look into other options.”

A senior spokesman for Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) said in an emailed statement that international students have to prove they really needed to be in the country to complete their studies.

“The foreign student must clearly prove and substantiate why they have to be in Canada to carry out the educational activities in order to be considered as coming to Canada for a non-discretionary purpose,” stated Rebecca Purdy.

If international students can attend classes entirely online, it’s likely their coming to Canada will be seen as optional.

Lack of resources

Berry said schooling from home will be an adjustment.

“I was unable to go to any study spaces where I am. I’m really going to be doing studies from my room.”

For international students further away from Canada, the restrictions present quite a different challenges. Hannah John lives in India and said when she left campus in the spring she did not take all her belongings with her.

“My friends are there, my belongings are there, everything is there because I did not take all my things with me when I left. Half my life is in Canada.”

She said she was worried about having to attend online classes from a different time-zone but St. Thomas University has set up asynchronous learning so international students can watch virtual classes and do their coursework at their convenient time.

“That’s something we dealt with right away to ensure that wouldn’t be a barrier for our students,” said Jeffrey Carleton, a spokesman for St. Thomas University.

The University of New Brunswick is following a similar pattern to ensure students aren’t at a disadvantage.

Still, officials at St. Thomas University and University of New Brunswick are disappointed international students can’t enter Canada.

Carleton said the university has been providing foreign students with letters to bring with them when crossing the border. It explains that, even though all classes can be taken online, the campus is open and providing resources for students.

The numbers

Last year the Association of Atlantic Universities reveals that over 19,000 foreign students attended Atlantic universities.

St. Thomas university has approximately 202 international students presently enrolled and Carleton estimates this decision will impact between thirty (30) to forty (40) students. The university has 1,850 students in total.

UNB’s vice president of academic said about ten (10) per cent of their students are from overseas, but about eighty (80) per cent of them stayed in Canada over the summer.

“All our students are essential,” said George MacLean.

UNB’s senior communications manager said the school is not able to provide specific numbers around international and non-international students because there is still a lot of uncertainty, but current enrollment numbers are consistent with last year. The university has about 10,000 students.

“Total enrollment numbers are not finalized until early October and patterns this year are not easily comparable to that of last years due to the impact of the coronavirus pandemic,” said spokesperson Heather Campbell.

Berry said she has made up her mind about staying in Maine, at least for the coming semester, but John said once flights between India and Canada are restored she wants to try to enter Canada.

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2 Responses

  1. Muhidin osman

    Iam student who refugee in ethiopia right now
    And i need to study in canada and work there because any health care level you need is garenteed by government of canada
    The other thing i liked most is no corruption. No fight .no discrimination
    Anything which is for humanity is there
    Itsnot like my country somalia very much different
    I like most canada viva canada

    Reply

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