International students at University of Waterloo can now stay in residence for the holidays

A new policy at the University of Waterloo now allows international students who live in residence to stay on campus for 10 days.

Usually, students have to leave their dorms 24 hours after their last exam and go elsewhere for the break

International students living on residents at UW can now apply for the winter stay-in program. (Brian St. Denis/CBC)

A new program at the University of Waterloo will now allow international students living on residence to stay on campus for ten days during the holidays — for a fee.

Usually, students living in dorms are mandated to leave and move out of their rooms 24 hours after the last exam of the fall term. Now with the Winter Holiday Stay Program, international students with no place to go during the break can apply to stay on campus from Dec. 22 to Jan. 2 

"In the past we've directed them to landlords that would provide off-campus accommodation for the students," said Jennifer Ferguson, the assistant director of housing and residence at the University of Waterloo. 

"But with the increase of international students now on campus and more questions about what they're going to do over the holiday break if they can't make it home, we felt like there was a need to put something in place," she said. 

Ferguson said students participating in the program will have access to two dons — residence supervisors — a  cooking area and a variety of activities offered throughout the break.   

Currently there are 1,225 international students living on campus at UW. Ferguson said so far, 21 students have signed up and paid for the program and 64 more have expressed interest. 

"Hats off to our staff to be able to put this in place and offer it to our students," Ferguson said. "I think it's a real example of how we show we really care for our students." 

She adds that some staff will be volunteering their time for the program. 

'Worried' about where to go   

For many international students who live on campus, the room policy requiring them out over the holidays had been an inconvenience.

Sunny Chen, a second year international student at UW, had already made other plans. This year she will be staying over at her friend's house for Christmas. 

"My friend and I, we're kind of worried cause we know during Christmas and the holidays the dorm is closed... we don't know where we should go" said Chen.

"I think it's not really fair to international students, my friends... they kind of feel like they're being kicked out during the holidays." 

I think it's not really fair to international students, my friends... they kind of feel like they're being kicked out during the holidays.- Sunny Chen, second-year international student 

"Christmas is actually a good holiday for them, but they have no place to leave [to] so it makes them feel kind of lonely and stressed out," she said. 

Ferguson said the school has tried putting on a similar program a few years ago but there was low uptake so they decided to stop it. 

"We needed to reassess that. Now we're in a position where we want to try it again to see if we'll have an uptake and this might open the door this year for us to continue for the following years," she said. 

The students must pay $350 to stay over the break and have until Dec.19 to apply.

Ferguson said if "there is a need after that day," the school will also accommodate.