The international community at Trent is massive, with around one thousand students that are a part of it. A lot of what makes Trent such a diverse and welcoming community is its international students, here from all over the world. However, it is a strange time we are living in right now. With a pandemic at hand, time seems to have gone stagnant. And while it is a difficult time for everyone, international students studying away from home seem to be in a more perilous situation than ever. From worries about accommodation to the numerous risks associated with travel, most international students are stuck in a foreign place, away from home, with severe uncertainty dominating their daily lives.
“As an international student it’s been super stressful hearing about the [novel] coronavirus spreading every day and everything shutting down,” says Lexis, a first-year film and media major at Trent University. With campuses and residence shutting down mid-March and classes being cancelled before being moved to an online format, many students were left in confusion, with domestic students rushing home and international students scrambling to either get flights back home or fill out a stay extension for the residences. While some were lucky enough to get flights and travel home, the travel bore with it its own set of repercussions.
As an extremely communicable illness, travelling during the COVID-19 pandemic entails not only the risk of getting sick yourself, which is bad enough, but also transmitting the illness to loved ones and people back home. “My biggest fear about travelling home was the possibility that I could be a carrier and transmit the disease to someone in my family,” says another first-year student.
When asked how it was getting back home, stressful is the most common word used by students. From being careful about not touching surfaces to one’s face, travelling when an illness as communicable as COVID-19 is spreading like wildfire can be extremely difficult.
Lexis, who is now back home, lets us know that she is still in self-isolation.
“I’m still self-isolating because I have been back only seven days, and I do not want to pass anything along to my parents if I have something,” she tells Arthur.
And it is not just stress about the illness either. Travelling home on an international scale for students, at any given time means planning in advance, packing, moving, and storing belongings, which in itself proves to be very stressful. Add onto that a global pandemic, the inability to plan ahead, uncertainty of flights being cancelled or suddenly quarantined, sudden closures of facilities and having to either pack things in a rush and leave, or wait out the pandemic in a foreign country while trying to arrange immediate accommodations, things can take severe toll on student’s mental and emotional well-being. And the worst part stems from the fact that for most people, it is family and home that stabilize them during harsh times like these.
For international students stuck in either Peterborough or Canada, home is already far away. Factoring into that the global panic, indeterminate lockdowns, and the necessity of isolation, things can prove to be very lonely and harsh while the importance of home seems to be more vivid now than ever. However, this is not to say that all international students are lonely here.
In these trying times, there has been some commendable display of solidarity from both Trent as an institution and the students within. With residence stay extensions, information sessions, and providing necessary groceries and supplies, Trent has been very supportive of students who have stayed behind while providing them with a safe environment and space to live in. Moving the students from the residences into the Annexes in order to minimize the risk of transmission while ensuring the transition to be easy and comfortable is a true testimony of Trent’s commitment towards the well-being and comfort of its students.
The students themselves too, in these difficult times, are sharing tips and tricks to deal with isolation online, helping fellow students with moving and transportation, assisting in transitions to the online format of classes, and standing together in support while showing immense empathy.
For further information about Trent University’s directions and plans for international students during this unprecedented time, check out the University’s COVID-19 information pages.