Concordia's Thursday Report

Vol. 29, No.6

November 18, 2004


Worries from far away

By Eliane Dandjinou

For international students, being away from their families and fitting into a new environment is already a huge burden. It demands a lot of courage, self-sacrifice and a good dose of support to maximize the benefits of their stay and succeed in their studies.

But those good intentions can be jeopardized when students abruptly learn that a conflict or even a war has broken out in their country of origin.

In fact, beyond the constant worry for loved ones’ safety, a war represents undetermined isolation in a foreign country. More important, there is the possibility of having their financial help cut short with no other resources.

Most international students are not eligible for any kind of university financial help, and they are forbidden to work off-campus. Thus most of these students will quit university to wait for the conflict in their home country to be resolved.

Until recently, my country, Ivory Coast, was one of the most stable countries in Africa. Now, I see images of a raging conflict all over the media, with the number of deaths increasing by the hour and the repatriation of foreign citizens in the thousands.

I spent more than $100 trying to contact all the members of my family, as the phone lines were not accessible. Personally, I am finding the helplessness is the hardest part. The scandalous images of beheaded victims do not help.

Fortunately, Concordia offers direct support to students in crisis. Pat Hardt, Cross-Cultural Advisor, is contacting all Ivorian students to find out how they are coping, and to offer emotional support.

She pointed out that when students are affected financially by such a crisis, Canadian Immigration can sometimes allow them to obtain a temporary work permit on humanitarian grounds. For more information, please contact the ISO.