English language schools hope travel opens up soon

·3 min read
Many students at Study Abroad have had to do 14 days of isolation before they could attend school. The school says that can be particularly hard for younger people coming to a new country.  (Laura Meader/CBC - image credit)
Many students at Study Abroad have had to do 14 days of isolation before they could attend school. The school says that can be particularly hard for younger people coming to a new country. (Laura Meader/CBC - image credit)

English language schools and cultural exchange programs have been hit hard by pandemic restrictions, since many students have been unable to come to P.E.I. or have chosen not to come because of isolation requirements.

Study Abroad Canada in Charlottetown has mostly international students so numbers have dropped significantly.

Summer is normally one of its busier times — in a normal year they would see 150 students, now they have about 30.

Jaimie-Lyn Lapierre-Clarke, vice-president of operations of Study Abroad Canada in Charlottetown, said the school managed to stay open thanks to government support programs.

Laura Meader/CBC
Laura Meader/CBC

"It was a huge blow to us for sure, when this all started, our student base is international students," said Lapierre-Clarke.

"Drastically reduced our numbers."

She said prior to the pandemic they were gearing up for a big year in 2020, with lots of individual and group bookings.

"We were expecting a full house for our international program."

Travel requirements tough

Lapierre-Clarke said international students with student visas are allowed to come into the country, which is the people who plan to study six months or longer.

She said however, all the requirements are tough for students to accept.

Laura Meader/CBC
Laura Meader/CBC

"The process to get there is a lot more complicated," she said.

"They need negative COVID-19 tests, they need to isolate for a couple of weeks and as an international student, isolating alone in a hotel for two weeks is a lot."

Lapierre-Clarke said a lot are waiting for restrictions to lift.

She said they did offer people in isolation an online study option with supports available to them.

"We did have a lot of cancellations for sure."

Submitted by Explore program UPEI
Submitted by Explore program UPEI

She's looking forward to rules changing because she feels people will want to travel and study again.

"We are ready and able to welcome students."

Looking for other business

Study Abroad also began offering language testing as a way to bring in more revenue.

They recently became an official testing site for an English language test that is a requirement for citizenship or permanent residency in Canada.

It's great to interact with young people from outside the province. — Rick Schneider, Explore program

The school is running tests weekly and Lapierre-Clark said it's made a difference.

Also related to the pandemic, it's been hard for people to get these required English tests as many sites are out of province.

UPEI program goes virtual

At UPEI, an English program for students from Quebec has gone virtual with all classes and field trips online.

The university has hosted the federal Explore program for decades with as many as 200 students coming to campus each year.

Laura Meader/CBC
Laura Meader/CBC

Rick Schneider, the program manager, said it's a different feel this year without students on campus.

"It's obviously very different. We're running all of our programming online, we don't have any of our students in residence, a lot of Zoom classes, we have live streamed activities in the afternoons, but we're making it work," said Schneider.

"In general we're having a very positive experience."

Laura Meader/CBC
Laura Meader/CBC

He said the program brings revenue to the school and sometimes tourism dollars when families visit.

"It's a great program for us. It's great to interact with young people from outside the province," he said.

Student numbers are way down this summer, as an online program isn't the cultural experience many had hoped for.

"Obviously if the students were here in person there would be a completely different way of doing things," he said.

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