St. Thomas University's international students are struggling to return to campus this fall, mainly due to COVID-related delays. (Yassine Khalfalli/Unsplash)

St. Thomas University’s international students are facing difficulties with getting to campus due to COVID-19-related delays with their student visas.

But for some students, like Caterina Soria, more difficulties occurred once arriving in Canada.

Soria, a second-year student from Peru, said when she arrived in Fredericton after 48 hours of travelling, nobody came to pick her up from the airport.

“The university was supposed to send a taxi and this taxi driver was supposed to take me to the university, but that never happened,” said Soria.

When Soria had to take her own taxi to STU, there was nobody to help her with her luggage.

“I had to do everything myself. They only gave me the keys to my room … I think the university was not really helpful with [the] moving process,” said Soria.

When Soria arrived on campus, she completed her 14-day quarantine in Holy Cross House.

Carrie Monteith-Levesque, STU’s international student coordinator, said there is roughly 25 to 30 per cent of first and second-year international students who were able to make it to campus so far.

“I would say there are probably more [students] that are delayed than that are here,” said Monteith-Levesque.

Monteith-Levesque said the transition for international students arriving to campus is going well.

She said they’ve been making sure the international students who aren’t fully vaccinated are booking their appointments.

“Just working with them to make sure that they have everything they need so that they can be fully supported on campus,” said Monteith-Levesque.

She said STU’s International Students’ Association is trying to create opportunities for students to engage, whether they’re on-campus or back in their home country. STUISA hosted a virtual event on Saturday for new and returning international students.

Monteith-Levesque said there hasn’t been hesitation from international students yet regarding their safety on campus. She said students have been flexible, resilient and learned to adapt.

Thanaisri Ellamaran, a second-year student from Malaysia, said she was hoping to get all her travel documents on-time, but then everything closed due to COVID-19. This included the visa application centre, which closed in June and only reopened last month.

Ellamaran said she also doesn’t have a Canadian government-approved vaccination. She is fully vaccinated with Sinovac, which is a vaccination administered from a Chinese pharmaceutical company.

International students who received a vaccine that is not approved by the Canadian government are still able to enter the country but will have to complete the mandatory 14-day quarantine.

“I think what’s stressing me out the most is that I’m already in my second year and I don’t want to wait any longer to travel, especially as an international student,” said Ellamaran.

She said STU is dealing with the online aspect well.

“It does feel a bit isolating sometimes, because I don’t really know anyone else in my class, for any of my classes,” said Ellamaran.

Caridad Guerrero, president of STUISA, said she is committed to students who are not on campus. She said the students are worried about their applications, visas and where they’re going to live.

“But in terms of COVID, it’s even more than that because of all the documentation they have to get to travel, their vaccines, whether or not to have to use a mask and all the different filters they have to go through as international students,” said Guerrero.

Guerrero said STUISA is implementing a hybrid mode for this semester to ensure all international students have access to activities. The activities will be in-person but also have an online component to allow others to join from away.

“I’m so excited I have a team that is actually thinking outside of the box and we’re creating this hybrid mode … everyone gets to participate until they come here and actually get to experience second semester,” said Guerrero.

She said STUISA’s essential role is creating a sense of belonging for students.

“We believe, as STUISA, we have a bigger commitment to the students that are not here in creating that sense that they are part of the STU campus and of the international community, even though they’re miles away from us,” said Guerrero.

Guerrero wants international students to know they can count on STUISA to advocate and support their different paths through university.

“We’re going to make sure that everyone gets to participate and as STUISA, we take pride [in] the fact that we are here to showcase true diversity and to celebrate your cultures,” said Guerrero.

With files from Giuliana Grillo De Lambarri