At the start of the COVID-19 pandemic a year ago, international students at colleges and universities had to decide whether to return to home or stay in Canada.
Kratik Gandhi, 20, a third-year Durham College Marketing student, is one of the many students who remained in Oshawa because he was unsure of what the future held if he returned to India.
“My whole family was having a COVID scare, they were in contact with someone who died cause of COVID,” Gandhi said. “There was a chance of me going back because even my dad was having really bad health conditions, but it just wasn’t a good time at that moment.”
He says he’s able to stay connected to his support system in India through FaceTime and video calling but must schedule these calls because there is close to a 10-hour time difference.
He takes part in online classes while living in Oshawa with four other roommates but is having a challenging time with virtual learning.
“It’s been really difficult to get motivation. It’s just moving around from your bed, desk, or going to your laptop,” he said. “It’s been hard getting schoolwork done because you don’t have the actual feeling of going to the class and learning, it’s like watching a video.”
Gandhi already applied to undergraduate programs in Ontario and wants to remain here to start a career afterwards which is part of the reason he’s staying in Canada instead of going back to his family who he hasn’t seen in two years.
“Maybe if the quarantine requirements for both countries are gone, I would go back to India for two or three weeks just to see my family and then come back,” Gandhi said. “I’ve applied to programs for next fall semester at universities and plan to stay here after my studies.”
Despite getting used to the new normal in Oshawa, he still worries for his family because India has had a difficult time controlling the virus since the first outbreak.
He says the government in his home country is now using the term ‘herd immunity’ relating the Indian culture to COVID-19.
“People don’t really care now, if they get it, they get it,” he said. “It’s part of their life now because as a developing country, people have to keep working, they have to earn money, and they cannot stop to worry about their health.”
Although India is still struggling, Gandhi has been taking extra precautions in Durham now that he knows the second wave of the virus is here and case numbers remain high.
He even had to undergo COVID-19 testing last summer after experiencing symptoms of the virus that lasted longer than a week.
“It’s such a bad feeling. What if you come up positive, then you have to spend time in the hospital? The waiting time just kills me,” he said.
Thankfully, his results were negative.
“I’ve been really concerned about things like going on campus and going to get food outside,” he said. “I’ve been using one more step to be safe like sanitizing my hands every time I walk out of the store.”
He wants the community to know international students are not only facing schooling challenges, but some work as front-line workers which create more stress not being in their home country.
“They have to pay their tuition which is more than four times more than domestic tuition and they have living expenses,” Gandhi said, who is among more than two thousands students at DC.
Students studying at the college from around the world can access support online from Durham College’s website. It offers specific aids for issues students may need help resolving.
To learn more about international studies at Durham College and new information for students, visit https://durhamcollege.ca/info-for/international.