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Studying in Canada: Starting by distance?!

The pandemic has been a shock to families worldwide – sometimes economic, and sometimes, to health. We at CUAC have received communications from hundreds of students around the world whom we were helping to come to Canada this September, 2020. Of the further shocks they have experienced is how to cope with the frustration and disappointment of not being able to begin studies in classrooms. As difficult as this is, patience will be rewarded. First, Canada has been remarkably successful in taming the worst impacts of the pandemic. While we know things can flare up, Canada has now demonstrated a collective will to do whatever it takes to keep things in control. Our universities and colleges have also worked together to implement prudent and cautious policies and these have included focussing on distance delivery for almost all academic programs across the country.

At the same time, the people behind the programs are doing all they can to make them as effective as possible so that students are well-prepared when they finally can return to class. In a recent article by the newspaper, The Chronicle Herald, in Halifax, Nova Scotia, several examples of how Canadian university professors are adapting to the challenges of the pandemic are explained. One such example is that of Professor Jonathan Fowler, of the anthropology department at Saint Mary’s University in Halifax, Nova Scotia. The article explains just how Professor Fowler has changed the way how he teaches his archaeology courses. "Fowler is taking the content that he would deliver through in-person lectures and breaking it down into smaller chunks to help students digest information easier, as well as combining videos and photos he has taken at sites in previous years to provide them with virtual case studies in a mini-documentary format. “I’m always hoping that students get a meaningful experience and that they learn something that has personal relevance,” Fowler said. He’s also hoping to “humanize the digital environment” by providing both synchronous and asynchronous teaching, meaning his students will get to attend virtual lessons altogether and have access to material on their own at any time of day. While many instructors, including Fowler, prefer in-person classes, he said he believes the pandemic has pushed them to think outside the box in terms of how they can teach their content and perhaps even reach a wider audience beyond their student body in the digital space.

“I’m hoping that even though in some respects we’re functioning like athletes with an injury, … we each might discover some creative new approaches to our teaching craft that we can then retain later on,” he said.

So don’t despair. Your time will come. With patience you will be on a Canadian campus, walking to classes, and making lots of new friends. You will all be able to share and exchange stories of the unexpectedly difficult pathway you had to take to finally get to your destination. Your professors will be only too pleased to be able to greet you in person. Send questions to Dani Zaretsky

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