Sudbury

More than 100 students still living on campus at Laurentian University in Sudbury

Before COVID-19 hit, Hemliss Eloïse Konan had plans for how she'd spend her summer in Sudbury. After finishing her first year at Laurentian University, Konan planned to stay in residence, and get a job for the summer.

The university says 75 per cent of those still in residence are international students

Hemliss Eloïse Konan is staying in residence at Laurentian University, while most of the campus has cleared out. (Submitted by Hemliss Eloïse Konan)

Before restrictions were imposed because of COVID-19, Hemliss Eloïse Konan had plans for how she'd spend her summer in Sudbury. After finishing her first year at Laurentian University, Konan planned to stay in residence, and get a job that would help her parents in Ivory Coast pay for her education.

While Konan is still in residence, the dreams of a job have vanished.

"I watch movies, talk to my parents, my friends. I read books," Konan said. 

"It's very hard for me. I don't have anything to do."

Konan is one of 122 students still living in residence at Laurentian, nearly two months after the university suspended classes on campus. The university says 75 per cent of students in residence, like Konan, are international students.

Deciding to stay in Canada

When the World Health Organization declared COVID-19 a pandemic in March, and countries began to close their borders, Konan said she briefly considered whether she should try to return to her family in Ivory Coast. 

"I decided to stay here because it's more safe for me."

Temitope Shogbolu made the same decision. The sixteen year old decided to stay in Sudbury, along with her twin sister, rather than return to Nigeria. 

"I didn't want to make a rash decision that I would end up regretting," Shogbolu said.

'Kind of used to it'

Like Konan, Shogbolu had planned to get a summer job, and her family planned to visit later in the summer. She had also planned to move out of residence. 

"I had already found a place to stay, but because of the lockdown and the quarantine, the person said they wouldn't be able to rent out their apartment because their plans had been cancelled, so they had to stay back home."

Shogbolu said she was frustrated at first to not be able to work, but she said she's adjusted to the new reality. 

"I guess I'm kind of used to it right now," Shogbolu said. "I'm getting used to the quarantine system and not going out."

Temitope Shogbolu recently finished her first year as a nursing student at Laurentian University. (Submitted by Temitope Shogbolu)

Since she can't work, Shogbolu has signed up for an online class to keep herself busy and get a head start for the fall semester. 

Meanwhile Konan said she hopes there may be job opportunities later in the summer, as restrictions begin to be lifted.

"My family helps me by sending money, but I really wanted to get a job to help them," Konan said. 

"If I can't get a job, it will be very difficult for me."

Supports for students

Despite her worries, Konan said she feels "very supported" on campus, noting the university regularly sends out updates about the COVID-19 situation, as well as information about mental health supports. 

"The international student office organize meetings via Zoom, to feel less alone, we talk about many things. 'How do you feel', 'how are you doing today,'" Konan said. 

While campus is closed, more than 100 students are still living in residence at Laurentian University. (Erik White/CBC)

The university has moved all students who were living in dorm-style residences into apartment-style residences, where they have their own washrooms, and kitchen to cook their meals. Students can request basic items from a small on-campus food bank, and the university said the residence office is providing taxi vouchers for students to get to and from the grocery store. 

Shogbolu moved into an apartment suite along with her sister — and she said she feels lucky they are together.

"We've been bonding a lot more right now because we are stuck with each other," Shogbolu said. 

"It's almost like life back home in Nigeria, but without my family members. It's really nice having someone here to talk with and like, just a family member physically, it's really nice." 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Sarah MacMillan is a reporter with CBC Sudbury. She previously worked with CBC P.E.I. You can contact her at sarah.macmillan@cbc.ca

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