The Price of Going Home

This year, going home for the holidays will cost international students $1528 to self isolate when they come back. Students coming back to Halifax from outside Canada will be required to fund a hotel stay and meals for 14 days. This added fee is on top of the estimated $2000 some international students may pay to fly home and back. 

“It’s not a fun time to be an international student,” says Elizabeth Foster, a third-year journalism student at King’s. Foster is from Maine, and has been living in upper-year campus housing at Dalhousie since August. 

Foster says she was “upset” when she saw the new restrictions. Dalhousie had previously quarantined all international and residence students in Howe Hall, a residence building on Coburg Road. Meals were provided by the university, and students did not have to pay extra for the room.

“I wish we could just quarantine in Howe… I have to pay over $1000 for 14 days… in a hotel I’ve never been in,” said Antonia Mugisa. She is a first-year computer science student from Uganda. Her family now lives in South Africa, where she is flying home for winter break. Mugisa lives in residence at Dalhousie, after starting school in January 2020. 

Mugisa says $1528 is nearly the same cost as next year’s rent for three months.

Canadian students outside the bubble are allowed to self isolate in their apartment, or in Howe Hall if they are living in residence. International students must stay in the hotel, even if they are living alone in an off-campus apartment. 

The Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) announced on October 20 that international students could return to the country if they were studying at an approved university. For a university to get approval, they would have to comply with the guidelines set out by the IRCC. Dalhousie/King’s were approved on November 3. 

Dalhousie will pay half of the hotel and meal fees for international students who are new to the school, international students who stayed home in September, or are deemed “essential travelers.” Essential travel covers any student with a valid study permit for Canada, along with students who may be from somewhere with unreliable WiFi. Going home for the winter break is considered non-essential, and does not qualify a student for financial aid.

International students at King’s have to pay an average $3000 more in tuition per year over their classmates from the rest of Canada. They also pay over $700 in health insurance per year, compared to the $311 domestic students can pay or opt out of. International students must have MSI or equivalent Canadian insurance to opt out of the coverage. The extra self-isolation fee is making some students feel the pinch.

“Just seeing the difference in the way you’re being treated is quite sad,” says Mugisa. Canadian students are allowed to move their belongings to Howe Hall before they go home, so that their room is all set up by the time they have to self-isolate. International students must bring everything they need for the 14 days in the hotel with them on the flight back to Halifax. 

“It’s the cost more than anything that’s really discouraging,” says Foster. Students are weighing the decision: spend the money or be denied access into Canada after the holidays.

“I’ve had friends who have already…  decided it’s not worth it to go home,” says Foster. 

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