Episode 12: Will she stay or will she go?
Exchange student tip #1: don’t go on exchange. Actually, I take that back. I’ll say this instead: study abroad for one semester, not two. If you apply for a second, expect your whole world to be flipped upside down. That’s what has happened to me, as this week I was faced with the biggest decision of my life.
Let me begin by providing some context. If you’re an exchange student studying in Canada for only one semester, you do not need a visa. My proof that I’d be exiting the country in less than six months was a return flight home, dated February 18. Last semester, once Concordia decided to welcome me with open arms for the winter, I changed my flight to July. The only problem? My visa application hadn’t yet been approved. Still today it apparently hasn’t even been looked at.
When an Australian friend of mine told me that he’d been detained in a cell between the border of Canada and the U.S. in 2013 (due to complications with his student visa), I thought: “how ridiculous, that will never happen to me.” Unfortunately, it now seems that I might be facing an equally as serious circumstance.
When I submitted the paperwork in December, the Immigration Canada website assured me that it would take a maximum of seven weeks to hear news, which meant mid February at the latest. To my dismay, I discovered on Friday—whilst sitting with an advisor at the Concordia International Student Office—that the estimated processing times have been altered. Now, I won’t be receiving news until the end of April.
Here’s the pickle. If I do not receive an approved visa before the end of April—or my application is declined—I could face the following consequences. One: I will not be credited for any of my grades. It will be like the winter semester never existed. Twelve weeks of study go down the drain. Two: I will miss out on partaking in the equivalent Australian semester, which commences early March. This leads to three: I will have to do an extra semester at the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology, meaning that I will graduate a year later than I’d expected. And four: I will have to pay a ridiculous amount more for that extra tuition.
So, it knuckles down to this: risk everything (my academic record, finances and time) to stay in Canada until July, or: hop on a plane and leave Canada next week. What would you do? Maybe I’ll start an online voting poll.
Like a patient waiting in a doctor’s office, I will likely spend the next few months wondering whether the diagnosis will be fatal. On the other hand, I could not fathom leaving Montreal so soon and on such traumatic terms. At this point, all I can do is hope that by some miracle I receive the answer I’m wishing for sooner rather than later.