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Residence challenges for international students

Eva Bašová, a first-year student, had originally moved to Oshawa from the Czech Republic to attend Ontario Tech University and participate in classes on campus. She was living in Simcoe Village, a popular residence option for students at the Oshawa campus.
However, during the holiday break in December, Bašová chose to return home to the Czech Republic instead of staying in residence in Oshawa.
She says the switch to a fully online format for her classes played a big role in her decision.
“I didn’t know when my final exams would be, so since it was online and I could do them whenever I was finished with my schoolwork, that was a big part of it,” Bašová said. Many international students at Durham College and Ontario Tech University are still juggling their housing options in the wake of COVID-19.
Many students were already learning under online or hybrid formats. While this option can provide more flexibility for learning, some students say it can cause confusion and uncertainty for students in life outside the classroom.
These include, ongoing decisions regarding COVID-19, fluctuating housing prices and the desire to be around family and friends.
Family was also a consideration for Bašová.
“I didn’t have a reason to stay, I wanted to just go back to my family,” she said.
But that’s not the decision every student made.
Whitney Gourgel, a first-year Forensic Psychology student at Durham College moved to Oshawa from Portugal to attend classes in person. She went home like some other international students for the holiday break but chose to return to campus afterwards.
She says while residence was expensive, she eventually chose to stay in Oshawa at South Village.
“At first I did (think it was expensive) but it’s understandable,” Gourgel said, “like I didn’t really expect it (but) I wasn’t surprised with the price.”
Gourgel also says that unlike other international students that chose to stay in their home countries due to family reasons, she “never really thought about it.”
Durham College offers resources to support and guide students with information on all aspects of studying abroad, including housing.
Pranav Vyas, international arrivals and engagement coordinator in the International Education Office, said Durham College makes sure that students can see a staff member even if they are working from home.
“They have the personal touch of having their question answered by a real person, and not a chat-room bot,” Vyas said.
As for housing, Vyas said the International Education Office has plans in place to assist students beyond finding housing.
“If (students) are facing challenges with signing into a lease, reading documents, making sure that they are doing the right thing,” he said, “all those questions are covered in our wonderful workshops.”
As for what housing will look like for both international and domestic students for the fall semester, Vyas is hopeful for a full return to campus with fewer COVID-19 restrictions.
“We are looking to come, fingers crossed, on campus and have classes offline and make sure every student domestic or international, has the opportunity to use those services,” he said.
Currently, Bašová plans to return to Oshawa this year to attend classes in the fall semester.