N.S. universities making allowances for international students during COVID-19 surge

·3 min read
Acadia University has kept its residences open since September. (Elizabeth McMillan/CBC - image credit)
Acadia University has kept its residences open since September. (Elizabeth McMillan/CBC - image credit)

In response to surging COVID-19 numbers, some universities in Nova Scotia are closing down residences and reverting to online learning.

But international students planning to stay on campus will still be able to move in.

"It's a good thing that we still have our campus residence open because there's currently a kind of a housing crisis in Wolfville," said Acadia University fourth-year student Tanvi Dabas, who is from India. Dabas is a member of the student union executive.

Acadia's residences have remained open since September. Dabas said there were fears that might change.

"It's a little hard for students to find houses and, being international students, it's not just harder but overwhelming because you don't know the rules. You don't know how to find a house," said Dabas, who is also a Students Nova Scotia board member.

Dalhousie University has chosen to close residences until the end of the month, as well as revert to online learning. But exceptions will be made for international students.

"We have made some emergency exceptions for those residence students who needed to return earlier.… We have allowed international students to return to residence earlier," Dalhousie spokesperson Janet Bryson said in an email.

Mount Saint Vincent University spokesperson Gillian Batten said in an email that MSVU residences are open to all students for the winter semester.

Acadia president Peter Ricketts said the university is welcoming even more students in residence than last year — 725 versus 1,300 — and, as members of the Maple League of universities, St. Francis Xavier, Mount Allison and Bishop's collectively decided to keep their residences open.

"We're expecting quite a large number of international students to be arriving this week," Ricketts said.

He said this decision was made to limit further disruption of studies.

CBC
CBC

"At Acadia, we have a large number of Nova Scotia students, but we have a significant number of students who are from out of province," he said.

"Over 50 per cent of our students who are out of province are international, so we wanted to make sure that their travel plans would not be disrupted."

Ricketts said all Nova Scotia universities will continue to monitor public health restrictions and do what's best for their campuses.

He said things can be adjusted, if necessary, but he doesn't foresee Acadia closing residences.

Ricketts said he encourages students, especially international students, not to give up during these uncertain times and not to let the pandemic deter them from their studies.

"We have some students coming in January who waited 18 months to come....They've had to deal with visa issues, travel issues, the pandemic, everything.

"But whatever it is, don't let that dissuade you from fulfilling your dream of getting your education here in Canada because there's lots of people at all the universities who are just there to help students get through and manage through the difficulties and all the restrictions that are in place."

Dabas said she knows what it's like not to have anywhere to go.

She encourages international students at other schools to reach out to their student unions for help during these times.

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