Being an International Student in Canada during COVID-19
My name is Ritika Dubey, a 23-year-old international student from India. I recently graduated from the Journalism-New Media program at Sheridan College in Oakville. I know it sounds quite exciting to complete school and begin a career, but this has been the worst time ever to enter the job market, and I, along with my peers, are hurting - all thanks to COVID-19.
My entire year looked like it would be a picture-perfect screenplay. I had landed my desired internship which could have been my door into the journalism industry, I was graduating with all the credits and classes I ever wanted to study and, I have been self-sufficient with bearing my own expenses through a part-time job. I worked really hard, and I felt like this was going to be my year. Then, everything got flipped upside down. My mental health is suffering from so much uncertainty.
Coronavirus has hit me hard. My internship was postponed and I lost the opportunity to begin my career. I say ‘postponed’ to sound optimistic but I really don’t know if that would be a possibility for me. As an international student, my student or work visa makes my ability to live here strictly time-bound. There is a possibility that I might not be able to go for the internship if it’s re-offered later this year. And even worse, who knows what the job market will look like when all this is over.
I still have no idea what bothers me more during the pandemic-- is it the thought of an amazing career opportunity drifting away from me, or is it the uncertainty of my future as a temporary citizen? Is it the thought of finding myself in financial debt or, is the mental exhaustion triggered by these unprecedented events? All I know is that I’m burnt out. This pandemic has taken a strain on my mental health.
While I was a student, dealing with the ups and downs of life was bearable because I could still reach out to my school counselor for help. Now that my school is over, I can’t do that anymore. Most recent graduates can’t reach out for professional mental health support because we can’t afford it. In my case, it gets worse because I am here all by myself and don’t know whom to go to and seek help from when I feel overwhelmed.
I am hoping that the government will come up with a provision to help international students like me get the mental health support they need in order to get through this challenging time. There are so many students who are far from home and have no idea what to do to help themselves out of this miserable situation. India has closed its borders, flights are a chaotic mess, and I am alone, disconnected from my family and friends, and struggling to find support.
As we start to plan the post-pandemic world, let’s build one that works better for everyone in Canada. Mental health must become a priority - with Universal coverage. I know I am from India, but I see my peers, both Canadian and International, really suffering. Problems like inaccessibility to sufficient mental health resources have existed for a long time, but this pandemic has shone a light on them. It’s time to push for change now so that after this pandemic is over, we don’t suffer from a second one related to our mental health.