The International Experience

The International Experience

An international student’s view of the COVID-19 pandemic, lockdown, and return to school

Qianchun (Allen) Han, The Mike Contributor

The University has been sending out monthly updates about the Fall semester since April, when the whole province was still under lockdown. Now, with the roll-out of vaccination and decreasing daily cases, the provincial government and the university officials are optimistic about returning to in-person lectures!

With the outbreak of COVID 19, one and a half years ago, most international students chose to return to their home country as a safety measure. However, many faced inconvenience due to delayed or cancelled flights, forcing them to stay in Toronto, with the fear of being infected. Government response was slow and inefficient, provoking resistance from groups and individuals screaming “freedom” while refusing to follow public health measures, putting the rest of us at risk. 

So, when the university eventually carried out and confirmed an in-person 2021-22 academic year, many international students automatically chose to take a gap year due to concerns about safety. However, many were unable to return due to the university’s late disclosure (which was done in Mid-June), making it impossible for students to gather the documents and tests required to return. For example, multiple international service agencies in China disclosed that the visa and study permit application processing time could take up to more than 200 days, making it impossible for many international students to return in time for the start of semester.

For those lucky enough to get the required document setup before the semester started, the price for the flight ticket went unbelievably high ($8000 – $10,000 for a one-way economy class flight from Shanghai to Toronto) due to the high demand and limited flights. In addition, returning students were slapped with soring rent prices, highly competitive buyers and some having to make large deposits to landlords: such as a lump-sum amount for 12 months of rent, rather than usual monthly payments- an unfair demand previously unheard of. Many were further inconvenienced by the difference in time zones for correspondence with greedy landlords, causing additional stress and anxiety for students and their family members. 

These are the major issues that are preventing international students from coming back to campus. The university did carry out safety measures like UCheck & free quarantine programs, but the decisions did not help to eliminate the unmatched hassle faced by international students. It’s complete chaos for a lot of the international students to plan, prepare and eventually arrive and stay in Canada. Despite the university’s accommodations, additional stressors and costs are severely overlooked.