SFU offers caring touch for self-isolating students

December 23, 2020

Battling loneliness and lack of connection during quarantine can be tough, but a new pilot program aims to make things easier by helping with meals, accommodation and individualized check-ins and support for SFU students who self-isolate due to provincial COVID-19 requirements.

SFU’s CARES program offers a trio of options for any SFU or Fraser International College (FIC) student required to self-isolate because of either international travel or their living situation.

“We have a very diverse student population,” says Catherine Dauvergne, SFU’s provost and vice-president academic. “Self-isolation can be pretty overwhelming to figure out, especially if you’re an international student. We wanted to create a program to support all students, regardless of their circumstance.”

Due to the global COVID-19 pandemic, international students or domestic students who travel outside of Canada and then return must quarantine for 14 days. Similarly, students may also be in need of support with a place to self-isolate due to their living situation or need help with a self-isolation plan.

Isolation can be a lonesome time because of a lack of social connection, activities and opportunities to make friends.

CARES, which is a pilot program that will run until Mar. 31, 2021 and could be extended, offers three levels of support and resources for students required to self-isolate. The first option arranges meals and provides a room with a kitchenette at a Burnaby hotel. A subsidy covers some of the costs to students. For students who are comfortable arranging their own meals, a second option (also with a subsidy) assists with the hotel costs. Additional CARES emergency assistance funding is also available for students in financial need.

And even if students have their own accommodations and meals, SFU wants to help where possible.

·      Read more about the CARES program here.

“For students who are comfortable planning their own accommodation and meal options, and are self-isolating, we still absolutely want to them know we’re here for them,” says Micaela Roughton, SFU associate director, community and belonging. “We care about what they’re going through. We want to be able to assist and offer check-ins and supports to all students who are self-isolating.”

Help for those students includes linking them to SFU’s student support team, which will reach out and check-in to see how the students are feeling and to answer questions.

A number of SFU departments, including Student Services, developed the CARES program. It was initiated this fall when SFU and FIC became designated learning institutions for international students who are currently outside Canada.

“Arriving in a different country can be a challenge at the best of times,” says Tracey Mason-Innes, SFU executive director of student affairs. “We want to help international students connect safely with their classmates, engage with their professors and create life-long friendships. We want them to stay healthy and make the most of their SFU experience.”

To help international students, SFU has created a four-step guide to walk students through the arrival and self-isolation process. In addition, the university also created a list of resources and activities to help students connect virtually and make new friends during and after their 14-day self-isolation period.

“We know this is totally new for all of our students and something that none of us have had to figure out before,” says Rummana Khan Hemani, SFU vice-provost and associate vice president, students and international. “We do care. We’re trying to make some of this difficult time easier for students. Reach out and connect with us if you’re stressed or have concerns or need support. We are here for you and we want to help.”