International students could receive up to $1000 for the remainder of the winter semester because of the St. Thomas University Students’ Union’s International Student COVID-19 Financial Aid Fund.
Alex Nguyen, STUSU’s international student representative, came up with the idea for the fund when she saw international students using the GoFundMe platform to raise money for their studies.
International students are already under a lot of emotional distress, she said, and she hopes the fund will at least reduce their negative feelings.
“Being an international student alone in a pandemic sounds like a horror movie. But if, on top of that, you are struggling financially, it becomes even worse,” said Nguyen.
As of Feb. 13, STUSU received 31 applications for the relief fund and approved 17, but they are in the process of reviewing more.
Matt Oram, STUSU’s vice-president administration, said the fund comes from STUSU’s remaining funds from last year. He was able to move funds around from other lines that hadn’t been used because of the cancellation of social events due to COVID-19. Oram said the available funds in the emergency bursaries line is $24,700.
“We hadn’t spent money in some of the lines yet, so we were able to get the funds transferred,” he said.
“We want the money to get back to students, because that’s what we’re here for.”
Although both domestic and international students have been impacted by COVID-19, international students are disproportionately affected, said Alexa Navas, vice-president of the STU’s International Students Association.
She said the fund’s purpose is also symbolic. She wants international students to feel integrated.
“Some of our home countries were hit more harshly than other countries, and that takes a [toll] on us internationals,” said Navas.
Oram shared the same concern for international students’ and their need for funding. When Nguyen presented the STUSU executive team with the idea, they immediately started discussing how to implement the program.
“We wanted to do something to ensure that international students weren’t having to leave STU because of COVID,” said Oram.