The faculty of the University of New Brunswick may be locked out, but the international students are beginning to feel shut in.
Kathryn Gates, UNB’s international student advisor, said that while international students are affected by the strike similarly to Canadian students, they do not have as many options for spending their unexpected free time.
“Technically [the strike] doesn’t affect the international students any more than it does the Canadian students in terms of nothing happens with their immigration and nothing happens with their health insurance,” Gates said.
“But Canadian students have the option to go home whereas international students don’t have that option.”
Travel costs to return home are out of the question for most international students.
“I just came back from home and it’s not possible to go back,” said Ajayi Ronke, the international student representative for the Student Union, “flights going back home I’d say are almost $4,000 so I can’t go back.”
Another international student, Malcolm Nwokotubo, shared a similar issue.
“Because this was the busiest time of year I had to pay way above the normal price. I paid about $3000 while at another time the year I could have paid about $1500,” Nwokotubo said.
“Instead, I am back to school with nothing to do, spending a lot of money on living expenses like rent and food when I should be in Nigeria right now.”
Another unique issue faced by international students is that they can’t work longer hours to make more money.
“Because they are on a study permit, they’re only eligible to work 20 hours a week and where Canadian students maybe can take this time to get extra shifts and save up money, international students are still restricted in their work hours because immigration still doesn’t see this as a school break,” Gates said.
As a result, international students are left at loose ends.
“It’s hard for people to come all the way from their homes,” Ronke said.
“Coming here the focus is for school and now with no school it just makes you think more like ‘what am I doing here?’”
The International Student Advisor’s Office has been organizing more events in response to these issues.
“We’ve upped our contact with the students and we’re working with the Student Union to try and plan more events,” Gates said.
“The schedule still moves forward in terms of the services of our office but I totally understand that international students are feeling a little trapped and a little at loose ends trying to figure out what to do with their time.”
Although like Canadian students they were only required to pay for their residence and dining plans by the Jan. 17 deadline, some international students had already paid for all their fees because it takes time for their money to transfer.
This has created increased financial stress for international students whose fees for attending UNB are already significantly higher than their Canadian peers by over twice as much.
“I paid my fees already and I’m doing nothing right now. That’s just one thing for sure that’s a setback for international students,” Ronke said.
But when it comes down to it, international students just want the same thing as any other student: to get back to class.
“I really want everything to be settled and go back to school because losing a term is extending my graduation time so that’s one thing I don’t look forward to,” Ronke said.