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International students coming to Canada facing multiple hurdles, headaches

Last Updated Jul 19, 2021 at 1:59 pm MDT

CALGARY (CityNews) ─ Earning a degree at a Canadian university is a dream come true for many international students, but the COVID-19 pandemic has turned the dream into a costly headache for some.

Two international students from Pakistan wanting to study in Canada have shared with CityNews how the global pandemic has created significant problems − from securing admission and delayed paperwork to increased financial burdens.

“So it’s pretty tough, it’s mentally very exhausting,” said Dr. Tamana Khatir. “Hurdles after hurdles, which has freaked us out, all international students I would say.

“It’s been 11 months of struggle. I applied for my admission in September 2020 but my visa arrived in February 2021, so it took around four months, which is usually 21 days if you apply through SDS (Student Direct Stream). But after the visa, there was another struggle, it was vaccine, fewer available flights, then it was the quarantine.”

Dr. Tamana Khatir, seen in this undated handout photo, is pursuing her postgraduate certificate at Conestoga College in Kitchener, Ont. (Credit: Tamana Khatir/HO)

The experience has been the same for 19-year-old Arhum Ladak.

After completing his A-levels, Ladak applied to pursue a Bachelor of Computer Science at the University of Calgary. He was admitted, but due to the pandemic, visa delays forced him to complete the first year of his degree online from Pakistan.

“There were mixed emotions,” said Ladak. “When my classes started, it was a bit difficult for me because of the time zone difference. There was an 11-hour difference so it was completely upside down. I used to sleep in the mornings and stay up at night. I even lost a lot of weight.

“I thought I might get my visa by December 2020 so I planned on travelling in winter but there was no sign of the visa. There wasn’t any way I could contact the IRCC (Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada).”

Ladak managed to land in Calgary and is currently feeling relieved, despite being in a mandatory quarantine.

Arhum Ladak, seen in this undated handout photo, is pursuing his Bachelor of Computer Science at the University of Calgary. (Credit: Arhum Ladak/HO)

Meanwhile, Khatri is on her way to Conestoga College in Kitchener, Ont. She says reaching Ontario has been physically and mentally exhausting. And her postgraduate certificate will end up costing her much more than initially expected.

“As an international student, I have already spent $40,000 for my postgraduate certificate, then another $10,000 for the GIC, which is Guaranteed Investment Certificate that international students have to do,” she said. “And after that I had to spend two to three thousand dollars for the quarantine and the flights. And when I am saying $2,000, it’s excluding food, grocery and transportation.

“So it’s been a huge amount and a huge financial burden on me and my family.”

Despite the hurdles and headaches, both international students say they are excited about the journey ahead and are determined to make the most of their time in Canada.