International students face critical assessment

International students feel the pressures of school, just like national students, but with the added stress of maintaining a perfect record, or they could potentially face being forced to leave Canada after graduation.

“I always communicate with the advisor, it’s been helpful I don’t see any problems just talking or asking,” said Lizly Cabezas, international student in The School of Bachelor Applied Administration.

Cabezas, from the Philippines, came to SAIT last year and said that she hopes she can stay in Canada after completing her program.

I don’t feel discriminated against by SAIT, We have the international centre and they actually help a lot.”

A recent report released by CBC Canada indicated that international students face the added burden of facing stressful situations on their own, because any public signs of weakness could cost them their chance at a Canadian life.

Applying to stay in Canada is a complicated process for international students, and the points system required to apply for permanent residence is a game of math.

“How can I be a burden when I’m paying this much? They can benefit from me. I also have these benefits that I can get from them for compensation for what I’m paying,” said Cabezas.

This issue arises, because if students wish to stay in the country after completing their post-secondary education, they have to prove that they are not a burden to Canadian tax-payers. Through this need to prove their “worth” to the country, the CBC study indicated that international students might shy away from seeking mental health help.

Cabezas said she has taken steps to integrate into the SAIT community by joining clubs and getting involved to cultivate friendships. The friendly people that attend SAIT have encouraged Cabezas and made her feel welcome on campus.

“I really like SAIT so far. I invested a lot for my tuition fee. My program is good for two years, by December I’ll be done with my program and I can apply for a work permit,” said Cabezas.

The student has already spoken with immigration to begin the steps toward getting a Canadian permanent residence card, and said she has help to ensure she is on the right track.

Cabezas even caught a windfall when she received a refund on a portion of her tuition fees, helping to alleviate the stress of the fall semester.

Any contact with doctors, counsellors or other services could lead to a violation of their work-study permit, said immigration officers to CBC.

“I don’t feel discriminated against by SAIT. We have the international centre and they actually help a lot,” said Gustavo Katsuragi, a first-year power engineering technology student. Katsuragi said that he feels like, as an international student, he gets the same opportunities and support as national students.

Katsuragi, from São José dos Campos, São Paulo, Brazil, said that his first month in Canada attending SAIT has been a nice experience.

In order to remain in Canada, students must be actively pursuing their post-secondary education. If there are any records of illness that leads to missed classes, suspensions or deferment of studies, there is a chance immigration could find they have violated their permits.

“I came here because having a Canadian diploma gives me more points in the permanent residency [immigration] program. That’s one of the reasons that I’m taking this program,” said Katsuragi.

The student plans to stay in Canada after completing his program. Katsuragi had never heard of the associated effects international students can experience from speaking with counsellors.

The pressure is complicated for international students because the Canadian Border Service Agency will be contacted if a permit is violated, even if it is due to mental health stresses. These records can at times lead to a psychiatric assessment from an Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada officer to determine if a student seeking permit residence in the country will be a burden on Canadian health and social services.

Katsuragi applied online through the Canadian Immigration and Citizenship website. The website has programs that evaluate applicants based on age, previous work experience, English proficiency and more. This software uses a points system to put applicants in residency categories.

“With a Canadian diploma I have 15 more points in the residents program. So basically, I have the program to be invited to apply for the permanent residence,” said Katsuragi.

Will Tao, a Vancouver immigration lawyer, interviewed by CBC said that students do have the option of speaking to the health services available on post-secondary campuses. It is at the school’s discretion to report if students require a leave of absence or further counselling to authorities.

For SAIT students feeling stressed out or burnt out by the current school year, SAITSA is offering the new app I.M. Well. The app allows anonymous access to a variety of services including physical and mental health advise.

“It’s been a nice experience. Better than I expected, I think it will be fine,” said Katsuragi.

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