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Why Trent University Durham GTA Is Not Worth The Money For International Students

Written by
Ngoc Bui
and
and
November 2, 2022
Why Trent University Durham GTA Is Not Worth The Money For International Students
Image via Trent University

Gwanda is a third-year international student going to Trent Durham. Her first year was online, and her second year was in Peterborough. She has only been going to Trent Durham for around two months. When I asked how she felt about the Durham campus, she did not hesitate, “It’s a disaster.” 

The full-time tuition fees for an international student entering Trent Durham in 2022 are above $28,500. Though Trent Durham is called a “satellite campus,” the international tuition fees are only around $500 less than the international tuition fees of the main campus in Peterborough. Trent is well-known for their campuses in Peterborough whereas the Durham campus was only officially opened in 2010, and it is still expanding. Most international students travel a long way to come to Canada, and they expect to gain real university experiences. Therefore, to them, paying a considerable amount of money only to get the experience of a “satellite campus” is not worth the money they pay. 

As an international student from Vietnam, I spent one and a half years at Trent Durham. I lived in the Durham residence during that time, and I moved to Peterborough in August 2022. My experiences as an international student living and studying at Trent Durham demonstrate that Trent Durham needs to do better to support and welcome international students there.

City of Oshawa

I remember Michael, an Uber driver, telling me Oshawa is the worst city in the Durham region because of the high crime rate. In the trending article “Cities With Highest Crime Rate in Canada 2022” in University Magazine, Oshawa is the only city in the Durham Region in the list, and it is ranked eighth among the 10 cities with the highest crime rate in Canada. According to the article, “Oshawa is one of the most dangerous cities in Canada, with a crime rate significantly higher than the national average.” The rate of violent crime in Oshawa is 1,183 per 100,000 people, which is nearly double the national average of 611 per 100,000 people.

In Peterborough, I feel safe walking down the street as an Asian, but in Oshawa, I was harassed twice on the street. It was not downtown or in a sketchy place, but both incidents happened right outside of the Durham residence. The first time was when I and another international student, Tina, got out of the residence’s door and headed to a store nearby. A person walked across us, and he cursed out loud, “What the fuck!” Tina was stunned for a little while, but then she reacted, “What?” I was scared, so I stayed quiet. It was hard for us to not assume it was racism, that I am Asian, and Tina is Black. The second time was when I was walking back to the residence alone. I saw a man walking toward me, but I turned right before I could pass him. Suddenly, I heard him shouting behind me: “Girls like you should die…” He shouted something else angrily, but I could not hear it. I pretended to ignore him and tried not to turn around to look at the distressed man. Why did he target me? Was it because of what I wore? I am a female? I am an Asian?

International Community

The international community at Trent Durham is very small. In my first year, there were only two international students in the residence including me. In my second year, the number was under 10. In most Humanities classes I took, I was usually the only Asian student in the class. 

In Durham, I never felt like I belonged. Before 2022, Trent International (TI) did not have an office at Trent Durham. Most of TI’s services such as Academic Advising and Wellness Counselling could only be booked online in Durham, while in Peterborough, international students can drop by the TI office and get assistance anytime. In Durham, the staff was not trained specifically to assist international students whereas Peterborough has TI staff. Some of them are or were international students themselves, so they tend to be more understanding and non-judgemental toward a student’s struggles. Some international students speak English as a second language. They may not speak fluently or have an accent. When I first came to Canada, my English was not the best, and I felt that some staff at Durham were quite judgemental toward me. I felt discouraged to speak up for a long time because I was scared to make mistakes.

Additionally, there were barely any activities specifically for international students. Durham international students could only participate in campus-wide events that were not specifically designed for them. In Peterborough, during the 2022 Orientation Week, TI had many events for international students such as TI Bonfire and Sandwich Social. These events could make new international students feel more included and welcomed as they could meet other fellow international students.

Academic Life

An essential part of a student’s academic life is Academic Advising. In Durham, there were only two academic advisors. At the beginning of every semester, they were usually fully booked and busy all the time. Thus, some students could be ignored. When I was a Durham Orientation Leader in 2021, a girl named Tanzela told me she had trouble with course registration. I took her to an academic advisor’s office. I explained her situation to the academic advisor and asked him to help her. However, he needed to leave right after that. He told me to help her while I was only an Orientation Leader, and I was not trained to advise students academically. 

Akter, an alumnus, had a bad experience with him. Akter graduated from Trent Durham in 2021. She was considering coming back and taking Drama to get into teachers' college. She booked an appointment to discuss her plan. Akter said he had an unprofessional manner. When she talked about taking Drama, he said, “Just because you’re gonna take Drama doesn’t mean Trent is gonna accept you, and Drama is not a sought-after job.” Akter remembered “tearing up” after that. In my opinion, what he said can be truthful, but it was not helpful to Akter. If he didn’t think Akter’s plan is good, he could have advised her of another option. Trent Durham should create a safer and more inclusive environment for international students. What they can do is train staff to be more knowledgeable about international students’ issues, creating events specifically for the international community, and guaranteeing safety for international students in and outside the campus.

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