When going home wasn’t an option

Thursday, January 28, 2021

Divya family photo
Every four months. That’s how often Divya, a fourth-year Science and Business student, went home to Qatar to visit her family. Yet, in March of 2020, that option became impossible. COVID-19 had hit the globe, shutting down airports and bringing international travel to a grinding halt. Divya herself was on a co-op term, so even if international travel was easy, it was more or less out of the question if she intended to keep her commitments to her employer (which she did).

The campus emptied. Students were asked to leave residence, the university lectures and labs were temporarily cancelled, and then they all went virtual. Divya found herself feeling isolated, worried about her family and friends, and overwhelmed by everything that was happening throughout the world.

Divya headshot

It was really hard at first. I struggled to stay motivated, stay dedicated to my academics because the world seemed precarious – not just for me but for a family that was half a world away. So, I reached out to Counselling Services and they helped with tips and techniques to stay positive, take things day by day, and not worry so much about the future.

Divya was also surprised by her Waterloo community when people started to reach out to check on her. Not just her current employers, but past ones who knew she would be in Canada and unable to go back home. Her friends reached out; friends from residence, her classes, orientation leaders. They offered support, food, and other generous services.

“I realized the Waterloo Science community I had built here, through courses, residence, orientation, ambassadors, and clubs, was something I could count on. The relationships I had made through my participation in a full university experience are lasting, supportive, kind, and generous.”

Her community’s support motivated her to find new ways to be involved and healthy. She started running again, reconnected with friends overseas through video chats, participated in fitness challenges with friends in Science. By keeping herself positive, she saw her grades go up. She found herself focussing more on her academics and started to enjoy learning more. She hung out with friends through virtual quiz nights and other events that the clubs hosted.

All of this meant that she was able to appreciate where she was at in her academic career, spend time with her family online (including a virtual wedding in India), and even streamed movies with her sister who lives in Guelph.

 Divya on a videocall

By relying on her science community, Divya has found herself making the most of a difficult situation. She used the services available to her, like campus counselling and clubs, to keep herself positive and connected.

“I’m grateful to my Waterloo community – I was lucky I could rely upon the people in science to look out for me.”


We encourage you to reach out to your family and friends, and check in on each other often. We know that the past year has been difficult for many people, but we’re proud to see the Waterloo Science community supporting each other, reaching out, and offering help when it’s needed.

If you would like to increase your involvement with the Waterloo Science community, check out some of the opportunities available to you as an undergraduate student, and a graduate student.

If you need help, we encourage you to reach out to your support systems, or the resources available to you at the University of Waterloo:

Counselling Services 519-888-4567 ext. 32655
Here 24/7 - 1-844-437-3247
Health Services - Student Medical Clinic - 519-888-4096
Grand River Hospital 519-749-4300
St. Mary's Hospital - 519-744-3311
Good2Talk 1-866-925-5454
Crisis Services Canada 1-833-456-4566 or by text 45645
Mates - mates@wusa.ca
EmpowerMe - 1-833-628-5589