Back to School for International Students

Published on: August 31st, 2021

International students are being welcomed back to campus this fall after almost two years of online learning. Following the many challenges posed by the pandemic, what will studying look like for international students this fall 2021?

Learning options

Throughout the pandemic, online learning has been both loathed and celebrated by students and staff alike. While many yearned to return to the classroom, others welcomed the flexibility that online learning provided. The pandemic forced many post-secondary schools to modernize their online learning platforms and make it possible for students to be taught from the comfort of their homes. Schools are looking to maintain online options to students that prefer them or providing hybrid options, when possible. This will largely depend on the type of course; for example, courses that require hands-on experience, versus those that can be completed entirely online.

Vaccination requirements and health guidelines

Students that do not have the full series of a Canadian-approved vaccine must quarantine for 14 days upon arrival to Canada. Many schools are also imposing their own vaccine requirements, mandating that their students be fully-vaccinated to return to campus. This means that those who have received a non-approved vaccination may require a Canadian-approved vaccine to access their post-secondary campus. Some post-secondary administrators are offering help to international students to ensure this process ensues seamlessly after students have completed quarantine and tested negative.

“We have our health unit that works with them so they can get the vaccine on campus. We also partnered with some local pharmacies to make it easy for them,” (Gary Hallam, Conestoga College’s vice-president international and executive dean in Waterloo to CBC News).

As post-secondary schools are implementing their own policies surrounding vaccinations, it is important for students to check with their schools before starting this fall.

Post-secondary schools may update their requirements as health guidelines change.

Travelling to Canada

For some students, arriving to Canada for their studies will be a significant challenge. With flights from India to Canada currently suspended, travelling to Canada for the fall semester will include navigating various connections and cancellations. India is Canada’s main source country for international students. The flight ban forces many of these students to plan complicated travel itineraries to arrive in Canada for their studies. Not only does this raises travel costs substantially, but also increases the risk of infection.

Meanwhile, with travel restrictions changing, it is essential that all international students to prepare for their arrival to Canada. International students entering Canada must ensure that their designated learning institution (DLI) has a COVID-19 readiness plan. Students should also prepare the following documents at the border to prove they are exempt from current travel restrictions:

  • Valid study permit
  • Medical exam (if required)
  • Letter of acceptance from DLI
  • Proof that you have the funds to support yourself in Canada
  • Pre-entry molecular test results

Those who have not been fully vaccinated must prepare to quarantine in Canada for 14 days upon arrival. However, the government of Canada is asking all travellers to provide a quarantine plan in the case that they do not meet exemption requirements. Non-compliance with the current requirements could result in a hefty fine at the border.

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