Some international students at Queen’s face a winter break away from home

One student discusses the difficult choice to stay in Canada

The University will provide several services to students staying in Kingston.

As the semester wraps up, many students are making plans to safely travel home for the holidays. For international students, staying in Kingston isn’t a decision that’s easily made.

Despite having initial plans to go home to China for the winter break and see her family, Annabel Zhu, ArtSci ’21, told The Journal these plans have now been abandoned. 

Zhu was preparing to face the rigorous travel policies put in place by the Canadian and Chinese governments. 

“North America has a lot more COVID-19 cases compared to China,” she said. “You now have to get two negative COVID-19 tests within 48 hours of you flying to be able to go home."

Zhu explained, with several people trying to fly back to China for the winter holidays and few clinics being available to offer COVID-19 testing, there’s no way to know whether she would be able to get her required test results within 48 hours of her flying home. 

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Due to the stress of not knowing whether she’d be able to get her test results by the time of her flight, as well as added concern for potential exposure during her flight and in the airport, Zhu and her parents decided it’s best for her to remain in Canada for the holiday break.

Zhu said she could potentially travel to New Brunswick to see other family, or spend Christmas with friends in Oakville or Toronto, however she’s unsure about the risk domestic travel presents.

After not returning home for the summer break as well, Zhu cited homesickness as something of her concern. 
“I’ve been an international student for the past six years, homesickness is something I always feel,” she said. “It’s a motivation for me to think about going home to visit my family.”

“After I realized I wasn’t going home [for the holidays] I started feeling really stressed and sad, and I feel like I don’t have something to push me going forward.”

With an increased number of international students remaining in Kingston over the winter break, the University is prepared to provide several services to the students who will remain on campus. 

“QUIC will be promoting programing to students who plan to stay in Kingston over the holidays,” Mark Erdman, community relations manager, wrote in a statement to The Journal. “This includes QUIC’s World Link events, and various holiday time offerings and events in Kingston.”

Erdman also said residence dons will be available for emergency support throughout the winter break for students remaining in residence. These students will also receive an information package including resources to local wellness services, as well as contact information for who should be contacted in an emergency. 

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Information in these packages will include information about 24/7 mental health supports, links to Empower Me, and how to contact Kingston, Frontenac, and Lennox and Addington (KFL&A) Public Health, if needed.
QUIC is also providing guidance to all international students seeking to visit home for the winter break by providing students with information on the latest travel requirements for their country and the requirements for returning to Canada safely in January.

“QUIC continues to support all internationally-arriving students, in terms of their plans for safe quarantine, whether in residence or elsewhere in the community,” Erdman said.

“Along with a robust check-in service, returning international students will be invited to join an online community where participants will meet with a range of Queen’s community members to learn about different ways to engage with the campus community, and promote their wellbeing, as well as connecting with peers in quarantine.”

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