The financial impacts of COVID-19: an international student story

By University Advancement and Communications Posted: May 8, 2020 10:45 a.m.

Arian Pekaric, a third-year student from Bosnia and Herzegovina, applied for the Student Emergency Fund after being laid off from his part-time job due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Arian Pekaric, a third-year student from Bosnia and Herzegovina, applied for the Student Emergency Fund after being laid off from his part-time job due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Photo: Arian Pekaric

The opportunity to study in Canada can be a time of incredible personal growth and development for international students. Making friends from different cultures, learning in a different country, and living in a new community can open one to a new understanding of worlds beyond their own. The opportunity to get an education in Canada see many families saving for years just to afford a student visa for their child.

With the Winter semester now complete, many international students would normally be heading back home or starting their summer employment to pay for the upcoming school year’s tuition and expenses. In the fallout of the COVID-19 pandemic, summer jobs may no longer exist, financial struggles are mounting, and travel restrictions are forcing many students to stay put in Regina - away from their families.

The University of Regina Student Emergency Fund is a lifeline for students – domestic and international - experiencing financial hardships because of the COVID-19 pandemic. The number of applications for the Student Emergency Fund continue to rise with each passing day.

Arian Pekaric, a third-year Hill School of Business Student, is one of the more than 210 grateful students who have received Student Emergency Funding related to COVID-19. The Bosnia and Herzegovina native made his way to the U of R after attending school in the United States as an international student.

“My brother had completed his undergraduate degree in the United States, and I followed in his footsteps. He was successful and after graduation had secured an internship working in New York. Unfortunately, due to government regulation changes, he was unable to obtain a work permit and had to return home.”

Fearing the same fate, Arian transferred to the University of Regina in the Fall of 2018 and now happily lives in Regina with his wife. Like many students who juggle part-time jobs and full-time studies, Arian has worked as a sales consultant and marketing manager to pay for his tuition, rent, groceries, and other necessities. Due to unfortunate circumstances, Arian had to pick up more hours and work even harder to support his family.

“Last year, my father was laid off back in Bosnia and Herzegovina. Since then, we have been on our own financially. That was the first time I applied for assistance and thankfully received much-needed help from the University.”

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the situation for many students has become even more dire with many struggling to make ends meet and cover life’s necessities – never mind focus on their studies.

“As students, we work jobs to be able to support ourselves, but most of us have been laid off and have lost that source of income. And, due to COVID-19, many international students’ parents have lost their jobs and are on their own finding ways to survive back home.”

Working at a local gym until recently, Arian received a layoff notice when all athletic facilities were ordered to shut down. Without his primary source of income, Arian went in search of other options.

“I knew that I needed to find another way to support my family. I was in contact with the Bosnia and Herzegovina Embassy here in Canada, but it is a poor country and they are unable to support students right now. I contacted other international students about what they were doing, talked with U of R Financial Services staff who told me about options available for students.”

 Arian was put in contact with Kathryn Boyce from the University of Regina Students’ Union who encouraged Arian to apply for the University’s Student Emergency Fund. Arian applied and received a much needed Emergency Bursary.

“Staff at the University have made my situation so much less stressful. Thanks to the Student Emergency Fund I have been able to buy groceries and pay my bills.”

Although many domestic students have been able to return home to their families while continuing their studies, hundreds of international students remain in Regina with no immediate support system to fall back on.

“This truly is a global pandemic. People may think that international students will be okay because we were fortunate enough to come to the U of R to study. The truth is that many of us came here in search of a better life and an education with little money for extras or emergencies such as these.”

While the federal government has lifted the 20-hours-of-work per-week limit for those International students working in essential services (health care, critical infrastructure or the supply of food or other critical goods), international students remain unsure if they will be eligible for the same social benefits that other students receive.

“We all know that the life of a student can be quite stressful – but most don’t understand the impact of this situation. There are factors outside of our control that have made paying rent and buying groceries  difficult and our grades are suffering because of it. This is bigger than any of us and none of us know what will happen next. We need financial support to be able to go back to focusing on our studies.” 

The Prairie Kitchen Party – slated for early May but since cancelled – was the primary fundraising event for the U of R’s Student Emergency Fund. Redhead Equipment generously turned their event sponsorship into a $10,000 matching fund which has since been met. But so much more is needed.

With the number of applications rising each day, the Student Emergency Fund is, once again, running dangerously low. Over $225,500 has already been distributed to more than 210 students to help pay for necessities like housing and groceries. U of R staff are working diligently to continue processing the nearly 600 applications that have already been submitted – with more applications expected in the coming months.

All gifts to the U of R’s Student Emergency Fund – no matter their size – will be welcome lifelines to students like Arian and so many of our 16,000+ domestic and international students.

The need is great. Consider giving to the Student Emergency Fund today.

Check out #UofReginaCares for more stories about U of R students, alumni, faculty, and staff who are using their ingenuity, resolve, and hearts to care for our community during these challenging times.


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The student need is great – the financial impact of COVID-19