Dipayan Nag, director of International Student Relations at the University of Victoria (UVic), reflects on his role assisting international student during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“My priority for this time was mainly two things: first is guiding students through this difficult time and redirecting them to various different services. I've received a lot of questions about immigration, for example, students coming back, courses, classes, all those things. And that's what I felt this needed to be. And my second priority was to get the community a little bit more interconnected, which I had said during the election that I thought was very fractured and I have been taking steps towards that," said Nag.
Nag added that uniting this community would create a support system that would prove beneficial during times of duress like the pandemic when international students are facing unique obstacles.
Nag said that the reasons for the fractured nature of the international community of UVic are varied.
“One of the main challenges is that I face a huge diversity and there's a lot of different communities I need to be a part of, be in touch with," said Nag. "For example, there's so many different cultural clubs or communities and it's not always easy to stay in touch with all of them or for each of them to be in touch with all of them together at once. It doesn't mean that there was anything wrong with it, it's just I would like to see a little bit more dialogue between them."
During the summer term, tuition rates for international students were increased by 3.75 per cent, despite classes moving online. Due to the pandemic, Nag had hoped that the annually planned raise would be cancelled by the board of directors. Nag wrote letters to the board of directors hoping to persuade them to reverse the tuition raise. But because the change had already been confirmed, they refused.
“We are still in talks with them about this student fee hike and any future student fee hike. But as of that, we couldn't do anything because it had already been passed. And there was basically no appeals or no process for refunds from them. So because the term had already started, however, we now know the situation a lot more and we are pressing them harder on it,” said Nag.
While rates are standardly increased for both domestic and international students annually, Nag had hoped the current situation would prompt UVic to reconsider the change.
“I had expected that once COVID hit that they would take cognizance of that and make some changes. That is really disappointing that it didn't,” said Nag.