'It was a huge disruption for me': Hundreds of international students looking to study in Windsor are in limbo
Ottawa suspended direct passenger flights from India and Pakistan for 30 days
Arpith Sengupta was supposed to travel to Windsor from India in May and start studying at St. Clair College, but a temporary flight ban has derailed those plans.
"In an already chaotic world, it was a huge disruption for me," Sengupta told CBC News.
And he's not the only one scrambling to figure out what's next.
Hundreds of international students looking to study in Windsor are currently in limbo due to the temporary flight ban on India and Pakistan that was imposed by the federal government last week.
Given the rising COVID-19 case counts in India — with 300,000 COVID-19 cases being reported daily — and concerns about mutations of the coronavirus, the federal government banned passenger flights from India and Pakistan for 30 days.
Sengupta said the country's worsening COVID-19 crisis is scary. He also said that his entire immediate family has contracted the disease, so he is self-isolating.
"The only option we see is traveling from India to another country quarantining ourselves there for 14 days and then traveling to Canada, which is ... something that, as a student, I don't think I can afford," he said. "And it's not right on my part to be honest, I'll be traveling from India, and it's not safe."
He said he planned to land in Windsor in a few weeks and spent more than $30,000 dollars to get to Canada. But now he's left trying to figure out how to reschedule a flight for a ban that may be extended.
The college and the University of Windsor said it's trying to help students affected by the flight ban.
"Everybody knows this is beyond the control of St. Clair College or the students that flights from India were curtailed for safety reasons," said Ron Seguin, the vice-president of international relations at St. Clair College.
"We know they will open up when the time is right, so again we're preaching patience, we're answering inquiries. Students have to talk to landlords. We're talking to landlords on their behalf. It's an organized mess," he said.
He also said the college was expecting more than 700 students to arrive within the span of six to eight weeks starting on Monday.
Seguin said the college received a barrage of worried emails from students when the temporary ban was first announced, adding that it impacts students starting in the summer semester.
He said international students can still do their programs remotely, which was also the plan for them when they landed in Canada.
"I left my job to fly to Canada and I'm unemployed right now ... I'm studying and my loans all started. So it definitely affects me financially."- Arpith Sengupta, international student
"We are here to support them remotely, including here to provide counselling services and support. The COVID pandemic has really put a lot of pressure on international students both financially and on a mental health basis," said Christopher Busch, the associate vice-president of enrolment management at the University of Windsor.
Schools offering classes, support services remotely
He said the university has reassured international students that they can start their program remotely from their home and that studies completed outside of Canada will still count toward future postgraduate work permit eligibility.
The university was expecting approximately 900 international students from Pakistan and India to start their degree in May, but only about 75 to 100 students would be immediately impacted as many were planning on starting their programming remotely.
Busch said the university continues to provide counselling services and other supports, including language classes, for students who need the additional help.
As for program costs, St. Clair College says it has kept tuition the same for international students throughout the pandemic, while the university says some of its fees have increased.
For Sengupta, he's still left feeling disappointed. He was looking forward to living and studying in the city.
"I left my job to fly to Canada and I'm unemployed right now ... I'm studying and my loans all started. So it definitely affects me financially," he said.
"Secondly, the main reason to go to Canada was to understand the culture, experience it physically. Since I cannot do that, this is all very difficult to study online."