Ravaine Mullings left Canada on Aug. 22 for a three-week vacation to his home, Jamaica. Little did Mullins know three weeks would turn into three months.
“The only thing I brought with me was a small duffel bag,” Mullings laughed. “Because I wasn’t expecting to stay long.”
When Mullings came to Canada in 2019, traveling was much simpler. He sat in joggers on the ground, just waiting for his flight in Jamaica.
Mullings, 26, studies Cyber Security at Durham College and is among many international college students that were allowed to come back to Canada despite the travel ban due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
When Mullings arrived in Jamaica, he said, at the time international students were still able to come back into Canada provided they had proof they were enrolled in a post-secondary institution.
But when Mullings got to Jamaica, he said “all the policies changed.”
Marianne Marando is the Associate Vice President, Academic (Enrolment and International Education) at Durham College, she said the process of getting international students back to Canada has been in the works since August.
Marando said the college had to provide a “COVID-19 Readiness Plan” to the Ministry of Colleges and Universities to ensure DC was ready to receive international students.
“We worked really closely with Durham Region Public Health…We had to show that as an institution we are ready to receive international students,” said Marando
Durham College was the first school in Ontario to get approved to bring international students back to Canada, since then most Ontario colleges have followed suit, according to Marando.
The readiness plan had to show the college was prepared to implement contact tracing, cleaning protocols, screening, pre-arrival communication, and monitor quarantine of each international student arriving in Canada.
“When I was in Jamaica, I was there, doing classes online, waiting on getting a Visa…When I got the Visa CIC (Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada) said that no-one can come back as of yet, because every international student needs a COVID-19 Readiness Plan,” said Mullings.
Students returning back to Canada needed to prepare a readiness plan that would be approved by the government. The plan must include where they will stay, who will be picking them up from the airport, who will be bringing them food, and, If they have their own bathroom, according to Marando.
“The government requires very specific quarantine plans,” she said.
After Mullings’ readiness plan was approved his journey back to Canada began, but for him the most stressful part wasn’t getting into Canada, it was getting on the plane in Jamaica.
“You had to show proof that you are approved… and then they had to send a picture to the Border Control Officer, so you had to wait to be approved by that Border Control Officer before you could even board the plane,” said Mullings.
Even though Mullings had the papers saying Durham College was approved to receive international students, he said the message wasn’t properly communicated around different airports.
“They didn’t understand what the COVID-19 readiness plan was and what it was about,” Mullings said. “So, I had to be there at the airport telling them what the COVD-19 Readiness plan is and what the update was to go to Canada.”
Despite Mullings’ program being fully online Mullings said it was recommended by the International department that students who wanted to return back should do so before Dec. 30.
“Canada is my new home, so I decided it was best to come back,” said Mullings.
Coming back before Dec.30 also meant Mullings could work during the holidays, which is crucial for International students.
“International students, we only get to work 20 hours, so the only time we get to work full hours is within that Christmas break,” Mullings said. “I couldn’t miss that Christmas break finically to let me pay my rent for next year.”
As of Nov. 25, approximately 30 international students arrived in Ontario according to Marando, there is approximately 200 new and returning international students set to arrive in January 2021.
“We really wanted international students here, for some programs they have to be here first of all to study because they have to do labs and even though students are doing their best studying remotely from around the world it’s a little difficult,” Marando said. “We wanted to make sure we could support them in coming to Canada.”
Since coming back to Canada, Mullings has been staying in Ajax.
“It’s crazy. If you can’t say exactly where you’re going to stay, and how you’re going to stay, and how you’re going to eat then they will send you home,” said Mullings.
After an experience he describes as a roller-coaster ride, Mullings is happy to be part of the many international students welcomed back into Canada to continue their education.
“Covid itself was unexpected,” Mullings said. “In all my life, its the first time I ever felt like, I dont know what tommrrow is going to be like.”