Kavita Goswami Left- In front of Windsor Riverside Right- Goswami with her brother and sister-in-law at their wedding in India Photo credit: Kavita Goswami

Studying in a foreign country can be a stressful experience. Going back to your home country, to be near your family and friends, is always fun and reviving. But what happens when this short and exciting break turns into a medical emergency?

The year 2020 has turned out to be a suspense-thriller movie, with plot twists coming our way every month. As the world is fighting the Covid-19 pandemic, it has made our lives even more difficult and complicated. Every person and every sector, around the world, has been shaken to its core. And in this volatile situation, students have paid the price with an unpredictable future of their education.

Beginning March 16, Algonquin College suspended all face-to-face classes, moving learning online for the remainder of the semester and also converting the fall semester online.

While domestic students used this time to focus on their lives, look for hobbies and find their inner selves, some international students decided to leave the country and stay with their families.

But, as days passed and everything became more intense, the short trip took a toll.

Kavita Goswami, an international computer networking technician student at St. Clair College in Windsor, Ont., decided to go to Amritsar, India on March 12 to attend her brother’s wedding. This, once a delightful trip, turned out to be an extended journey of stress, chaos and financial strain.

“It was a four-day trip that got stretched into a three-month-long stay,” said Goswami.

“I reached India on March 12 and had a return flight for March 19. Soon after reaching India, I was updated that Canada . . . shut its international borders from March 13. Later, all Indian flights got cancelled,” she said.

Goswami also had a hard time attending online lectures, affecting her crucial final semester.

“My laptop was in Canada, so I had had trouble working for my computer programming assignments and attending zoom lectures. Due to the nine-and-a-half-hour time gap between India and Canada, I had to attend labs when it was three in the morning in India,” Goswami said.

Another student, Ishu Sharma, who graduated from Algonquin College from the project management and human resource management course in December, went back home to India to celebrate the milestone. Unaware about what was in store for the future, Sharma had planned to stay with her family for two months after reuniting with them after two years.

“When I came to India, coronavirus was not so severe in both India and Canada. I didn’t face any difficulties or check-ups at the airport,” said Sharma.

“Late in February, when I was about to start packing for my departure to Canada, COVID-19 became a heated subject and within a few weeks, both the countries were shut down,” Sharma added.

Five months later, after several unsuccessful attempts to get a work permit, Sharma is losing all hopes of coming back.

“My study permit has already expired and I have tried reaching out to every office to get my work permit. The biometric test is the main hurdle since all visa offices are closed at the moment,” she said.

Another freshly graduated student of the computer programming course at Algonquin, Tarak Chauhan, was one of the many to feel the wrath of the pandemic. Currently a work permit holder, Chauhan went to India to meet family and friends on March 16.

Aware of the virus, Chauhan had initially decided to cancel his flight and get reimbursement, but due to no response from the airlines and due to the ongoing rumours and news circulating, Chauhan felt that going home was a safer option.

“Although I’m safe with my family at home, I am losing out on a lot. Being on a work permit, I have already wasted four months and will be losing more time, that I could have used efficiently to get a field job,” Chauhan said.

“Special flights were arranged in India by the Canadian government, but only Canadian citizens were eligible to access them,” he said.

All the students who were left stranded in their home countries had to pay an expensive price for their journey. Rent, mobile bills and the possibility of losing their old jobs brought a blurry future.

“I have spent all my savings on paying the rent for a house I’m not living in and my mobile bills. I could only afford half my fees for my final semester. I will have to ask my family for financial help,” said Goswami.

According to the latest Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) updates, the Canadian government has lifted its travel ban for international students and work permit holders.

More good news by the IRCC for students stuck abroad is that they can now apply online to renew their permit to trigger implied status. The applicants who are unable to access required documents or get their biometrics need to attach an explanatory letter detailing the situation.

For more information, read the IRCC website.