Arthur News School of Fish

Letter: The Walking ATMs of Trent University

Written by
Letter to the Editor
and
and
December 15, 2022

Letter published in Volume 57, Issue 3 (December 2022).

Letter: The Walking ATMs of Trent University

This is my personal experience.

I started my first year at Trent a couple of years ago in the winter semester. Yup, horrible idea. I realized it a little too late when I ended up in residence with no one else in the building. Essentially what happened was that Trent postponed the opening dates for residence by around a week. So what happens to international students who already booked flights to get there on the initial dates? Who cares right, they bring the $28,000 in fees every year + residence and meal plan money with a dining overhead close to a $1000. 

I arrived on campus, with very little information on where things are and how things work. There was no proper orientation, maybe it was because of covid, I’m not too sure. At the end of the day, I was in my room in the residence with no food to eat. I went to the service centre to ask them where to go to get food. The only cafeteria opened was in East Bank and I lived in West Bank. The issue is that when you try to find East bank on google maps, it shows you a twenty-five minute walk because the Faryon Bridge doesn’t show up as a route and of course, the service centre staff did not tell me how to get to East Bank through the bridge. Sure, walking the whole circle to East Bank doesn’t seem like much now. But for a first year international student who had no idea how winter works, it was freezing cold outside. I went to the West Bank service centre to get some assistance. Safe to say housing wasn’t that much of help because they offered me $60 in Skip the dishes cash. How generous of them! $60 covers 2 meals a day for 5 days with delivery fees right? Paying close to a $1000 as dining overhead couldn’t keep the cafeterias open when most, if not all domestic students don’t occupy in residence because international students do not need food to survive. We are a different species. In this case, after my years at Trent, it is evident that the best residence to live would be Traill as The Trend, the Traill College cafeteria closes at three in the afternoon on Fridays and is closed all weekend. Why? Because each residence student paying ridiculous dining overheads and preposterous amounts on campus food is just not enough to satisfy the hunger of students. But of course, Trent does have more important things to do, such as the promotions to administrative roles that deeply care about the student body. Anyhow, this was my very first experience with Trent. I cried my first couple of nights to sleep here because I was the only person I knew who was in residence. There were no dons, no one to check on me, nothing. What a warm welcome! It was so warm that I had to ask one of my family friends in Toronto to pick me up and I stayed in a hotel until the domestic students moved in so the cafeterias finally open and I can actually know where to go when my stomach rumbles. Later in the year I met two other international students in the other residence in West Bank who went through similar experiences but they were lucky enough to get transferred to a different (better) university in their 3rd year. Trent was so good to them that they felt like it was worth it to give up on 2 years of international student fees + residence fees at Trent to start all over again at a different place. What a life!

International student tuition fee keeps increasing and the quality of support we get here is way worse for us than for domestic students. Honestly, it would be nice to see the money international students’ parents send with all the inflation and conversion rates put into good work but all I see is our benevolent president and his service dogs making the sunshine list every year. Improvements to the actual education that the students receive? Oh no, they don’t enough money for that because donor recognition walls, amphitheatres and random rocks that scream “Trent loves the environment” play a big role in the quality of education the students receive. I’ve personally had a handful of labs in the biology department that didn’t have enough equipment for. I’ve done labs with around seven people in one group because we didn’t have enough setups. Nearly $30,000 a year in fees to not have proper lab equipment. 

What is TI (Trent International) doing in all of this? Never fails to send me their weekly newsletter but do these people say anything in the board of directors meetings about what international students go through mentally? The financial stress we are under? All the student bodies in power seem to be planning events to make students think that they actually care about them but there is nothing at the core. Bonfires and game nights could only do so much.

We have incredible awareness and support for mental health here at Trent that one time I didn’t feel like existing anymore, I submitted a counselling request form through I.M. Well, a program that works with the TCSA. I heard back from them a week later because I guess it’s not that important. When I finally got counselling, I only got three sessions and the therapist I saw told me to submit a “new form with a new issue” after every three sessions so I could get help. That didn’t last long and after around nine sessions, the therapist decided that I didn’t need help anymore. This issue of being allowed only three sessions was brought up in one of the seminars about mental health support on campus, and the speakers told us that I.M. Well is a private company and is not related to Trent wellness? In fact, they seemed shocked that students only got three sessions for each issue, didn’t matter how critical the issue was. I’m constantly fascinated by the amazing communication different departments at Trent has. 

Personally, I could really benefit from SAS accommodation but in order for that, I need a diagnosis which costs me over $2000. Sometimes I do wish student bodies like the TCSA invested the money they get into actual student support such as better benefits coverage for students instead of investing them on cheap condoms and tutoring sites that no one uses. But hey, according to them, Trent is all sunshine and rainbows and there is absolutely nothing wrong with the administration. 

Overall, a lot of international students are suffering here. We don’t have a voice. Even if we do try to speak, the ultimate student bodies of power will shut us up with movie nights and sexy bingos. I wholeheartedly believe that as students who have travelled thousands of miles from where they call “home” should have more support here on campus. Why isn’t our money invested in proper ways? Why is it ridiculously expensive for the quality of life and education we get here? The administration of Trent University needs to stop lying about how much they support international students. They treat us as walking ATM machines and I, as an international student have never felt a sense of belonging here due to the subtle discrimination towards me everywhere I look within the Trent premises. Not from the students or faculty, but from the administration because it’s everywhere. It’s no news that domestic students have way better support here, but from what I’ve seen, that’s not much either. The most mind blowing thing is that the international students don’t even get that bare minimum. Our beloved president and his puppets’ salaries are being paid by parents of international students who are usually paying huge conversion rates. Fascinating how they don’t feel the slightest bit ashamed to rip off international students without making any improvement within the university. But then again, I understand, our president needs to build random unnecessary things that no one benefits from everywhere on campus and maybe even buy himself a new pair of green converse and those obviously take higher priority over students’ health and education. 

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