Nova Scotia

International students in secondary school stuck in limbo thanks to COVID-19

One-quarter of Nova Scotia's international students enrolled in middle school and high school have gone home. Now, plans need to be made for the remaining 750 students.

More than 1,000 international students in middle school and high school came to Nova Scotia this year

Behar Bengi, right, a Grade 11 student from Turkey, is staying with the Landry family. From left: Meaghan Landry, Paula Landry and Emily Landry. (Submitted by Paula Landry)

Nova Scotia's public school students are starting summer break early this year, but it's unclear what will happen to 750 international students studying in the province once classes are out.

More than a thousand middle and high school students from 36 countries came to the province to live and study under the Nova Scotia International Student Program (NSISP).

Executive director Paul Millman said that since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, around a quarter of those students have gone home. Millman said some left as a part of repatriation flights.

Students still in Nova Scotia are waiting to see which flights resume at the end of June. Safety is also factoring in on decisions to go home.

"We've heard that loud and clear from parents, from agents we work with, from kids, that they feel safer in many ways here than they would in their home country," said Millman.

Survey to be done

He said the regional centres for education are surveying international students to determine their individual situation.

There are many variables organizers need to look at when considering what students should do next. That includes whether a student was supposed to return in September to study, either with homestay parents or at a Nova Scotia university.

Some students were signed up for an English language camp NSISP runs, which is now cancelled.

"We have three groups of students who we are making plans for," said Millman. "We don't have final arrangements yet."

He said there is no rush to send all of the students home and many homestay families are happy to keep students a little longer.

Concerned about family back home

But some students are worried for their family members at home.

"The situation in Turkey is worse than here and I worry about them, both of my parents are still going to work and I'm just worried something bad will happen," said Behar Bengi, a Grade 11 student from Turkey.

Bengi is staying with Paula Landry, a teacher in Richmond County. This was Landry's first time hosting and Bengi's first time as an international student.

Landry wishes she and her daughters could have done a bit more with Bengi. They all enjoy camping and hiking, but have spent more time together inside these days.

Rachel MacGillivray, centre, is hosting two Grade 12 students: Ricardo Granada Sanchez, left, and Felipe de Oliveira Leite. (Submitted by Rachel MacGillivray)

"We're cooking a lot … every day has been centring around meals," Landry said with a laugh.

Rachel MacGillivray is hosting two Grade 12 students on her alpaca farm in Orangedale. Staying home has meant a bit more time in the barn for the young men.

"It's not like I have to find things to do," she said. "They did come and feed the animals and interact with them."

Felipe de Oliveira Leite of Brazil and Ricardo Granada Sanchez of Colombia said they've enjoyed the freedom of Nova Scotia. MacGillivray has taken them to see waterfalls and trails.

"Sometimes I feel a little bored because sometimes you have nothing to do, but it's really good," said Sanchez. "I'm having a good time."