India flight ban creates challenges for some Windsor international students

Recent University of Windsor graduate Kulakarni Baleagam says he has one friend in India who is taking multiple flights and paying thousands just to be on the campus in the southwestern Ontario city this fall. 

Friends say students abroad are paying quite the price just to make it to Canada

Kulakarni Baleagam, a recent University of Windsor graduate, says one friend has told him how difficult it is to come to Canada from India right now. (Jennifer La Grassa/CBC)

Recent University of Windsor graduate Kulakarni Baleagam says he has one friend in India who is taking multiple flights and paying thousands just to be at the campus in the southwestern Ontario city this fall. 

"I came in to Canada three years ago and when I came, it was really good," he said.

"I don't have to face any difficulties. I just flew in directly. But right now because of COVID, a lot of people are facing a lot of difficulties."

The Canadian government is requiring students from India to obtain a negative COVID-19 test result from a third country before flying in, due to an extended travel ban on flights from that country, until Sept. 21. Aside from wanting to take part in on-campus life, some may be in need of a post-graduation work permit and be required to be in the country before the end of the year. 

But the flights alone, according to Baleagam, are costing more than $5,000, compared to the $1,500 he paid in 2019. 

"My friend ... he has to take a lot of effort, he has to fly to a different country, he has to stay there, quarantine for a few more days, and then he flies into a different country again, and then from there he has to come here," he said. 

Bmayank Bhameliya, who is in the final semester of his master's program, said he's also hearing much of the same. He told CBC News those flying in are likely paying five to six times the price of what a direct flight from India would cost. 

Bmayank Bhameliya is in the final semester of his master's program at the University of Windsor. He says he hears indirect flights are costing people five to six times the usual amount. (Jennifer La Grassa/CBC)

"[People] are changing like two flights and travelling around for three days in different cities, and doing corona [COVID-19] tests at every airport," he said, adding the government should change its directives to better help students. 

"If [students] are fully vaccinated and if they are not tested positive, then yeah, they should come directly to Canada." 

U of W expects drop in international students

Due to the financial strain and challenges that come with travelling during COVID-19, the University of Windsor's director of the international student centre, Beth Oakley, said she anticipates incoming international student numbers to be "slightly if not significantly lower." 

Oakley said they are still expecting several hundred students to arrive. 

"We don't know the full extent of all the challenges," she said, adding they are encouraging students to be in touch with them throughout their travel. 

"Some of them are actually being diverted, three or four times, before they reach their final destination." 

St. Clair College says more than half its international students will be online for the fall semester. The University of Windsor anticipates a lower than usual international student turnout. (CBC)

For students who need to quarantine, Oakley said they must co-ordinate and pay for the hotel on their own, but the school is available for support, from virtual orientation to online drop-in sessions. 

She said a number of classes are being offered online for students who are not coming to Canada just yet. 

Over half of St. Clair internationals online this fall

St. Clair College said about 700 international students have arrived or will be arriving for their first year beginning Sept. 7.

An additional 800 students or so will be online for the first semester, but are expected to be in the city by January.

To accommodate students, St. Clair has 16 first-year programs it will offer online for those who can't make it in person, according to John Fairley, the school's vice-president of communications and community relations. 

Students who need to quarantine will follow St. Clair College's standard operating procedure and take a mandatory COVID-19 test on Day 8. Fairley said they are supporting student needs in hotels and driving them in from Toronto's Pearson International Airport. 

With files from Jessica Singer


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