Thunder Bay·Audio

Lakehead University students from Saudi Arabia face 'confusion and uncertainty' during transition

Lakehead University administrators say it is "disappointing" and "a little frustrating" that officials in Saudi Arabia will move thousands of Saudi Arabian students out of Canadian schools.

Approximately 100 students from Saudi Arabia were expected to attend Lakehead this fall

Saudi Arabian students attending Lakehead University's Thunder Bay and Orillia campuses have just one month to figure out where they will be going to school next year.

Lakehead University administrators say it is "disappointing" and "a little frustrating" that officials in Saudi Arabia will move thousands of Saudi Arabian students out of Canadian schools.

Approximately 100 new and returning students from Saudi Arabia were expected to attend classes at both the university's Thunder Bay and Orillia campuses during the coming school year.

"It's unfortunate certainly that this has happened," James Aldridge​, the university's vice provost: international, said. "We've enjoyed having Saudi students at Lakehead and they've become a real part of our community."

He said the school is currently working with students on an individual basis to try and help them as much as they can during this sudden transition.

"Our focus right now is on making sure the Saudi students are taken care of as they start to transition, and we've got to look ahead to fall semester which starts in a month," Aldridge said.

The university has had no direct contact from Global Affairs Canada or the Saudi Arabian government, Aldridge said, which is why they are in a "wait and see mode" as more information is released.

"The loss of any students affect us both in terms of the community we had with those students, and also financially," Aldridge said, "but it's certainly unfortunate and a little frustrating at this point," as it comes only one month before the fall term.
A diplomatic squabble between Canada and Saudi Arabia plays out on campus at Lakehead .. Over 100 international students will be moved from Canadian universities. Farhan Yousaf is Vice president of Operations and finance for the Lakehead University Student Union. 8:11

One month to transition

Students from Saudi Arabia have just one month to transition to a new school and figure out their academic careers for next year, according to Farhan Yousaf, the vice president of finance and operations for the Lakehead University Student Union.

"They have pretty much a month to figure out what they have to do and some of them are not here right now ... so this is a shock for many," Yousaf said.

He said some students are entering their final year next year and have already registered for the classes they need.

Farhan Yousaf is the vice president of finance and operations for the Lakehead University Student Union. He said he has been advising students to remain calm during this sudden transition. (LUSU)

"The reality is that if they go back in September, they are not going to start school for another year because whichever country they are transferred to, you have to do all that paper work, you have to do the transfer credits and everything," Yousaf said.

"So pretty much one year is gone wasted and some of them might have to restart."

Students have also started working in Thunder Bay and are now forced to think about quitting their jobs, moving and selling their personal items in addition to figuring out their schooling.

Yousaf added that there are students who have already gone home to Saudi Arabia for the summer with the expectation to return to Thunder Bay before the new semester.

"We have one student on our union board [who] left three days ago, so as soon as he got back home he heard this news, so there's definitely going to be an impact," he said.

The university and the student union are trying to support students the best they can, officials said.​

"At this point, there's confusion and uncertainty because they don't know where they are going to end up," Yousaf said. "So I've told them to remain calm."