The PIE: Tell me about your background and why you chose to study in Canada?
Mohammed Danish: I hail from Udaipur, Rajasthan a city eminent for its rich culture and flora & fauna. I have always excelled in studies; often been the top scorer, even during my undergraduate course I passed with honours. I come from a family where elders aren’t well educated but have tremendous potential.
“I graduated from my bachelor’s in 2018, and since then I have been preparing to study in Canada”
I graduated from my bachelor’s in 2018, and since then I have been preparing to study in Canada. After doing my IELTS English proficiency test, I was ready to go through the admission process for my college in Canada.
I don’t have a study permit at the moment, I will be applying for it in September. I am enrolled in a one year project Management course at Centennial College, after which I will be enrolling in another course. I have deferred my course on multiple occasions from May to September and now to January due to the travel restrictions & visa processing.
The PIE: Why is studying abroad important to you?
MD: Education means a lot because at this moment the population in India is increasing, there is a problem with jobs. I have two sisters, and I will eventually be responsible for my parents. I will have to make sure that they can survive and that I can survive, and that I can carry on with my family. They all depend on me and I have to work hard.
My education so far is up to a level where I can do a decent job and earn some money, but I want to study something that is recognised worldwide and for that reason, I chose to study in Canada.
The PIE: How have you been affected by Covid-19?
MD: It has totally turned my life upside down. I have been waiting for months because of the pandemic. Many of us have student loans.
The loan amount is huge, as our currency is not as strong as the Canadian dollar, so we have paid something like CAD$30,000. I am sitting at home and I have been paying interest to the bank for nothing. I haven’t even started my course yet.
“I have been paying interest to the bank for nothing. I haven’t even started my course yet”
The future is up in the air as nobody knows when we will be able to pursue our studies [in country]. Even if we are able to pursue them, what kind of challenges will we face in Canada?
Obviously the rent is high, maybe the part-time jobs won’t be available. Life has changed drastically. I don’t know what to do.
The PIE: How did you think Canada would respond to Covid-19 in terms of international education?
MD: Canada is a welcoming country, it welcomes everyone. But during this pandemic, they seem to just care for the Canadians. We can understand why they look out for their own people, but what about students or separated families?
The travel restrictions certainly came as a shock. We didn’t expect that from Canada – Ireland, England, New Zealand, they have really been supporting their students.
he PIE: What is your view on the situation in the US regarding international students?
MD: What has happened in the US, it wasn’t such a shock. What the US government stands for is very clear. But in Canada, everything is happening behind the curtain.
“How are they going to manage three intakes together in January?”
Canada could have responded in a better way but they didn’t. They could have made a safe zone where they flew in people from different countries, quarantined them there for a little while and then allowed them to go to their destination.
They could conduct classes in small batches of students on alternate days, with one batch attending the class one day and the other day. But they haven’t done anything like that.
How are they going to manage three intakes together in January? How are they going to handle this influx?
If you look at what is going on on Twitter, students are stressed out. Separated families are stressed out. IRCC are not addressing the problem.
The PIE: Do you think that these travel restrictions could harm Canada’s reputation?
MD: Students will still travel to Canada because what happens is that as soon as another country comes up with a benefit, let’s say the UK comes out with some relaxation of the rules that helps students, Canada will come up with something better.
“I think there is a big market for Canada and it can revive this market as and when they want”
So that is something that always attracts students. The immigration system is, as everyone knows, favourable to international students as there are paths to citizenship.
I think there is a big market for Canada and it can revive this market as and when they want.
The PIE: Why aren’t you happy with the prospect of studying online?
MD: Internet connectivity is very bad here. My internet stops responding and I have to reboot the whole system. So how can we study like this throughout the night?
I have been in touch with students who were disconnected while doing an exam. We have monsoon season here in India, we don’t have an uninterrupted power supply. The power gets cut off multiple times, sometimes for hours.
The PIE: Students have told us they have been stopped from boarding flights, what are your thoughts on that?
MD: If students are stopped from entering Canada by CBSA, surely it will be on their record. What happens then when they try to get into another country? If you do not want to allow students in, why are you giving them visas?
Why are you telling them “Okay, the students who were granted a permit by March 18 are allowed in”. They are not giving any clarity, they are not saying okay if you have this you are allowed back. There is always a catch.
Why would a student go through that – after spending such a large amount of money, so much effort getting enrolled in a college, just to get sent back from the airport? This is something that no one is paying attention to, sadly.
The PIE: What are your hopes now?
MD: At the moment the travel restrictions are set to end on August 31, if they are going to extend it for another month or so I don’t know what to do.
“Our future is up in the air”
The High Commission here in India is telling us that they are reviewing options to reopen visa application centres in the month of September, but the thing is that those who don’t have visas, if they apply, now they will get their visa in four to five months because there will still be a backlog of applications pending.
Our future is up in the air, we just stick to our mobile screens, day and night, waiting for an update. We just have no idea what to expect.