How KPU can help anxious international students

Struggling with the pandemic and living away from home can be scary

(file photo, edited)

(file photo, edited)

As the university returns to campus for the fall, many couldn’t be more excited. But sometimes that excitement comes with a tad bit of anxiety. 

The pandemic holds a lot of uncertainty for us. A lot of us have been through hard times, all by ourselves, and some have experienced traumatic times as well.

Often, the best thing one can do to comfort their friends and loved ones during hard times is to offer a friendly hug. But how can we be comfortable hugging when we are habitually worrying about keeping at a six-foot distance between ourselves and others?

It’s conflicting if you come to think of it. It’s difficult to console friends or pass my condolences without a hug, but I wouldn’t be comfortable risking and being a factor of transmission.

Standing at a crossroad like that makes me feel panicked and thinking that I don’t know what’s the right COVID-appropriate behaviour to present myself in a social world.

To add to this, I have asthma and feel suffocated when I see people forming a crowd instead of sticking to a social-distancing protocol. For me, it triggers my anxiety, and it might be the same for other students too.

While the transition to co-existing in a post-pandemic is easier for current students, it’s not as much for new students. For instance, it’s daunting for international students coming to Canada for their first semester. Although as a current student, I have the confidence and knowledge of how the system works. With the ban in place for direct flights from India, it is exponentially challenging and increasingly expensive for students to go to school here.

Kwantlen Polytechnic University could create a 24/7 portal to help international students throughout their journey by supporting them at every step including staying in a country away from home, getting permanent residency, how to face anxiety at school, and how to fill out paperwork and settle in Canada.

It could be time for KPU to conduct orientation a little differently this year by giving out a comprehensive multilingual informative package on COVID-19 safety to students and launching a resourceful package for mental health check-ins.

This semester, the KPU bookstore could offer some small plants as well, like succulents, which have been shown to improve people’s mental health and reduce anxiety levels.

KPU could also make some COVID-19 safety kits, easily accessible to the students and employees, like the chargers and supplies that can be borrowed from the library. It could include sanitizers, extra masks, and a cheerful quote that could be motivating or uplifting.

Though KPU offers international students a lot of support services, there are still improvements that could be made in catering to their mental health and unique challenges.