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  • Shivam Sadana

Director of Student Affairs on Transit, Housing, and Jobs

John Mayich, the Director of Student Affairs at CBU, is optimistic that solutions will be found to address many of the problems currently facing international students.

With the unprecedented success of recruiting efforts overseas – and the resulting influx of undergraduate students to CBU – also come new and complex challenges for the University’s administration. Though a lot has been said and done about these issues to date, nevertheless there appears to be a lot more work ahead. In order to flesh out some of these issues and what’s currently being done to address them, we sat down with Mr. Mayich last week to get his take.

Prior to the influx of international students, the existing transit infrastructure was far from taxed – if anything the bus service was underused. Mr. Mayich referenced the Memorandum of Understanding signed back in September of last year, between CBU and the CBRM, ensuring that CBU students would be an explicit part of transit deliberations moving forward; this is evident in that fact that for the first time in the history of the municipality there has been an increase in route frequency and even a pilot program launched for Sunday service. Despite these improvements, a common complaint from new arrivals is how long they have to wait for bus service – while implementing service on Sunday is a step in the right direction, many complain of having to wait as long as two hours after a grocery shop without sufficient shelter, all in the face of weather they are woefully unaccustomed to. Mr. Mayich points out that changes of these magnitude take time – buying new buses, hiring and training staff, continued maintenance and inspections – none of these interventions can be done at the snap of a finger.

The second problem facing students, and one we have covered in the past, is accommodation. When asked about the subject, Mr. Mayich replied that it was not “our [the University’s] responsibility” to locate appropriate accommodations for incoming students, but that it is their mandate to help students where possible. To this end, CBU recruited a full-time Off-Campus Housing Coordinator. Mayich believes that miscommunication is the cause of some current housing issues, and that agents need to need to be kept informed as these issues develop; he further states that students should not be coming to Cape Breton without arranging accommodations beforehand. When asked why landlords had begun increasing their rent after the arrival of so many international students, Mayich preferred not to comment. He would say, however, that the cost of living in Sydney was faraway better than other parts of the country, such as if the students had chosen instead to attend school in a city like Vancouver. Some students argue that while this may be true, the scarcity of job opportunities in the comparatively rural Sydney complicates this comparison.

When we did ask Mr. Mayich about the lack of jobs available to students, he indicated that if the school were to divert more resources to employment opportunities, the burden of these expenditures would eventually find its way back to the student in the form of increased tuition costs. That being said, CBU has added a Manager of Career Services and is consistently in contact with Nova Scotia Works so that they can proactively reach out to students early in the semester, helping them with resume-building and job hunts. Mr. Mayich also replied that students are here to get education and not jobs, so it is in their interest to focus on the former in service to the latter.

Many students from India and elsewhere in the world receive their study permit on the basis of a Guaranteed Investment Certificate (or GIC) which shows that these students have a certain amount of funds available for living expenses. To take the example of Scotiabank’s program, students invest a minimum of $10,000 – less a two hundred dollar program fee – which is paid out in instalments. When students arrive and open a bank account they receive $2,000 CAD and their first monthly instalment of $667. Adding the initial $2,000 to the monthly stipend, that leaves about $833 per month to pay for lodging, food, and any other cost incurred during their studies.

Some programs designed to help prospective students receive a student permit, such as Student Direct Stream, require that students pay the full amount of their first year’s tuition as part of their application – an expedited process that effectively ensures students are able to support themselves through at least one year of study. For students not using this service, or Non-SDS applicants, the requirement is a minimum of $10,000 CAD in GIC funds, and for the applicant to demonstrate that they are able to support themselves through their studies without the need for work. Most non-SDS students pay for one semester of tuition fees. Many students from both streams come with the expectation that they will support themselves through part-time work during their studies – a maximum of 20 hours a week as mandated by their visa status – and full-time work during designated breaks in their studies; if not to pay for tuition initially, at least to save for their second year of study. Depending on need and their ability to find work, students may try diverting funds from their monthly GIC stipend to pay for tuition and books. Using information from CBU’s Tuition and Fees Calculator as well as financial information available on the website, an international student can expect to pay about $9,600 per semester when all is said and done.

When asked about the current tendency toward groupism on campus, Mayich said that it was quite natural, and suggested that the only way to ‘break the ice’ is to engage students in activities together, such as those being advanced by the Multicultural Hub.

Encouraging intermingling between different student demographics must be privileged over discouraging groupism, and the Student Union has a huge role to play in connecting students across these lines.

Mr. Mayich concluded by saying that his department would be expanding their resources as more students enrol at CBU, in the interest of giving back to the wider community of both local and international students. Mayich asserted that Canada was founded on the basis on immigration, and that CBU’s primary goal is, in fact, an educated Canada.

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