Cape Breton University is grieving the death of a former international student who had made the island his home.
Dijith Jose, 24, died Saturday when the jet ski he and a friend were riding overturned more than a kilometre from shore on the Bras d'Or Lake near Baddeck.
His friend managed to swim to shore, but Jose's body was discovered the following day along the shoreline near Ross Ferry. Both men had been wearing life-jackets.
Amrinder Singh, who served as president of the CBU Students' Union during the 2020-21 school year, said Tuesday he met Jose a few times when they were attending classes prior to the start of the pandemic. Jose had recently completed his studies in supply chain management.
"My heart goes out to his family and friends back in India who are almost like 10,000 kilometres away," said Singh, an international student from Meerut, India.
"I can't imagine how this news must have impacted them. He came to Canada, away from all of them, to make a better life for himself and his family … I can't imagine [what] his mother and father must [be] going through."
Jose was from Kannur, a coastal city in the state of Kerala in southwestern India. He came to Canada in 2019 and had been living in Whitney Pier.
Singh said the loss has not only impacted the CBU community, but the island as a whole.
A fundraiser started by the South Indian Cultural Association of the Maritimes had raised more than $36,000 for Jose's family as of Tuesday evening. According to the website, the money will be used for funeral expenses and to clear debt from an uninsured bank loan taken out for Jose's studies.
A memorial mass is planned for Thursday evening for friends and loved ones at a church in Whitney Pier.
"Everyone is mourning Dijith's loss," said Singh. "He was just 24 years old and he just started his new full-time job.... it's certainly been very sad news for everyone."
Celebration of life to be held
On Tuesday, Cape Breton University said that grief counselling is available to students, faculty and staff.
"We were deeply saddened to hear of the passing of one of our recent graduates, Dijith Jose," spokesperson Lenore Parsley said in an email.
"[CBU president David Dingwall] did speak directly to Dijith's family yesterday and we do have their permission to host a celebration of life in the near future."
Parsley said details of the celebration of life would be announced soon.
'A very welcoming community'
Jose was among the thousands of international students who've come to Nova Scotia to study at Cape Breton University.
In recent years, the university has seen a surge in international enrolment. CBU says on its website that it has more than 3,500 international students from more than 40 countries.
Singh said the wider island community has always been supportive of students from all backgrounds.
"Cape Breton ... has been a very welcoming community to all the international students, they have welcomed us and supported everyone," he said.
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