C/O Travis Ngyuyen

Vaccines, distance learning and living continents away present unique challenges to international students

It should come as no surprise that international students studying in Canada have faced unimaginable barriers. 

Perhaps the most visible of all is the 6.9 billion dollars of revenue earned by Canadian post-secondary institutions in 2018, a 360 per cent increase from 2007. The source of this ballooning revenue is none other than the near $40,000 difference in the tuition paid by international students, when compared to domestic students. 

Despite our long-standing knowledge of these challenges, the COVID-19 pandemic has only materialized into a steeper financial and psychological climb for international students. With McMaster University’s recent announcement of resuming in-person classes in the winter semester, it’s important to take a step back and fully internalize its impact on the international student population. 

Kimia Tahaei, an Opinions Staff Writer at the Silhouette and McMaster student who has lived in Iran for the past six years, expressed her concerns about re-adjusting socially in the winter semester.

“I’m in a small program of 80 or 90 people and I’m the only person in that program who hasn’t participated in the one or two in-person classes they had this fall. Being in a whole other continent, it’s almost inevitable that I feel left out and that worries me going into next semester,” said Tahaei.

Clearly, the pandemic brought forth a sense of isolation that persisted even while most classes took place online. While it can seem that the return to in-person learning is the ultimate solution to this problem, that may not be the case.

Robin Barala is an executive for the McMaster International & Exchange Club, which fosters connections between international students and planned sightseeing trips, who detailed the difficulties international students will face once they arrive in Canada.  

“For international students who may not be vaccinated with a Canada-approved vaccine, they’ll have to quarantine for almost the entirety of the winter break. It’s going to be even more tough if they don’t know anyone here, which is the case for a lot of them right now,” said Barala.

While Canada has expanded the list of approved COVID-19 vaccines to include Sinopharm, Sinovac and COVAXIN, barriers still exist for those who received vaccinations such as Sputnik which were offered in many countries, including India

Although international students remain exempt from vaccine entry requirements, this exemption ends on Jan. 15, 2022, after which an approved vaccine will be mandatory

“While I was lucky enough to get AstraZeneca, which is approved in Canada, I just got the first vaccine I could get. A lot of people in Iran got the Sputnik vaccine so I don’t know what other Iranian students will do when they have to go back to Canada,” said Tahaei.

Ultimately, the return to in-person will inevitably bring about both positive and negative experiences for international students. While it may breed opportunities for socialization, hesitations about mixing vaccines, finding housing and reaching out to university-provided services may be unsurprising effects of the rapid geographical and cultural changes that come with a mandatory in-person semester. 

Barala further expressed that the culture shock that many other international students face often make them more likely to reach out to informal groups at Mac, such as the McMaster Indian Association, before being directed to more formal services like International Student Services.

When asked about this phenomenon, team members at International Student Services — a division of Mac’s Student Success Centre — responded that they were well-aware of the many avenues available to international students and recognize the importance of authentic peer-to-peer connections.

“The important role we play as professionals is reaching out to these clubs so that they are aware of all of the services we provide to international students. When it comes time to give that referral, they know exactly where to refer the student to,” explained Gisela Oliviera, Associate Director at the SSC. 

While it may be easy to paint the university with a wide brush – given the immense difficulties expressed by both international and domestic students with respect to housing, socialization and mental health – progress has been made by International Student Services. 

iCent, an application that sends out exclusive information from the SSC, is just one intervention that supports international students in their journey as McMaster students.

The movement back to in-person learning this winter is an unprecedented change for all of us. It’s incredibly important for the university to be cognizant of what exactly this means for students that may have never lived in Canada before, received an unapproved vaccine or have not yet had the chance to meet any of their peers. 

There’s no doubt that there have been steps made towards increased cognizance — with the strategies introduced by the SSC — but those strides need to be so much larger to truly accommodate the unique uncertainties faced by international students and foster the connections that they need right now. 

However, being cognizant alone isn’t enough.

International Mac students deserve a university that takes on the responsibility of advocating for them, rather than turning a blind eye to “off-campus” issues such as housing, budgeting, loneliness and unique hesitancies surrounding vaccines. 

Our expectations of what international students are responsible for has to ultimately change, taking into consideration the extenuating circumstances of a pandemic and its snowball effects on mental health, among other concerns. 

It’s no longer the time for recognition — it’s time for action.

C/O McMaster Sports

As the Cross Country season ends, there is a lot to be proud of and a lot to look forward to

Over the past couple of months, the cross country and track teams have been finding significant success through several points in their season. Previously, Alex Drover, a fourth-year cross country veteran, won the first Athlete of the Week award of the season in recognition of his exceptional performance at an Ontario University Athletics competition, where he placed first overall.

On Nov. 20, the cross country team took part in the nationwide U Sports Cross Country/Track Nationals. This year, the event took place in Quebec City, at the historic Plains of Abraham. The competition featured numerous turns and hills, which made the race very challenging for the schools involved. 

Throughout the Cross Country Nationals, the best performer for the McMaster Marauders was Andrew Davies. Davies finished just short of fourth place in the men's eight kilometre race, with an impressive time of 24:38, which had him 10.5 seconds off the winner of the race, Mitchell Ubene, of the Guelph Gryphons. 

Although Davies did miss out on the podium for the 8k race, he did not miss the chance to end up at the podium with the rest of the team, as the Marauders ended up third on the podium, earning themselves a bronze medal with a collective score of 79 points. The only schools to place above the Marauders were the hosts, Université Laval Rouge et Or and Guelph Gryphons, finishing first and second respectively

Davies, the best runner among the Marauders at the nationals, and his teammate, Max Turek, were both awarded an All-Canadian Bid for their amazing performances in Quebec. 

Although the overall results of the Marauders were impressive, Davies did express some level of disappointment with the final results. 

“Although we did make the podium, I can’t say that I was particularly happy with our performance as a whole. I personally think that we could have won the whole nationals. We definitely have the potential to do so, but it just wasn't our day,” said Davies. 

When asked about his achievement of earning an All-Canadian bid, Davies suggested that he expected to win it based on his strong performance in the race. 

“I sort of knew that I was going to get it because I was near the top in the first team. My personal performance was good that day so I saw it coming. Obviously, I am honored to get something like this and it does mean a lot to me,” said Davies. 

The effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on the runner and his ability to train were mixed. The lockdowns had both physical and mental impacts and changed the way he trained and performed later on. 

“To be honest, COVID-19 did not have a massive training effect on me. I was still able to train alone, since we are runners and we don't need partners to do so. If anything, it did sort of help me physically stay in shape because there was no pressure of any race coming up, so I had more time to prepare for whatever was coming next,” explained Davies. 

However, Davies did state that the pandemic did have a toll on his mental wellbeing and created a lot of difficulty for his training and mental preparation. 

“It was a very rough period for all of us because there was consistent cancellation of events every now and then and it was tough for us to keep up. I personally did not know when to expect any competitions to come back and it was all on one big loop for a year and a half. Especially in the winter, there was literally nothing going on and it had a huge toll on me,” 

Andrew Davies

When asked about the future, Davies explained he is certain that there is much more potential within the team and that they could return even stronger next year. 

“I think that we can do even better next season. Although some of our runners won't be eligible, many of our best athletes will be staying for another year. There are also some younger runners who have a lot of potential. So, I see us excelling over the next couple of years for sure,” said Davies. 

Although the nationals are over for this year, there will be plenty of opportunities for the track and cross country athletes to show their worth next year, when the new season will bring plenty of excitement for all involved. 

C/O Yoohyun Park

With several new rules and regulations, sports have looked much different for the athletes. 

After more than a year without sports due to the pandemic, university athletes across Canada were beyond excited to hear that they would be returning to play in the 2021-2022 season. Lower-year students would finally get their first chance to represent their university and upper-year students would finally get to return. It was a very exciting time. 

Although athletes were thrilled to get back, they were also left in some confusion, as there would be several new COVID-19 protocols in place, not just affecting playing conditions, but also their season as a whole. 

Many teams would see shortened seasons, alternative formats and reduced playoffs. Other teams saw their divisions realigned to limit travel and would play their regional championships in facilities other than their own. It was a very strange time that left many athletes and teams attempting to figure out how “normal” their return would really be. 

Alexander Cowman, a member of McMaster’s rowing team, was surprised to find his season to be fairly normal and very similar to what he had experienced prior to the shutdown. 

“I don’t think there were any hurdles that came with COVID. It was more so just the regular screening and masks and then that was about it. It’s been fairly close to normal this year,” said Cowman. 

When asked about the big differences he noticed, he quickly pointed to the lack of socialization at regattas from team to team and described it as the most abnormal aspect of the season. 

“I think the biggest difference is the lack of socialization between the different teams. Everyone just stays with their team and doesn’t interact with the other teams as much [as they used to],” said Cowman.

Although sports are full of competition, it is also an opportunity for athletes to socialize, get to know their peers and competitors and learn from one another. This is something that athletes from many sports have noticed as the human element of the game has slowly disappeared. 

When asked about how the year long break from sports affected the team, Cowman suggested that it may have actually been a positive, allowing the team to become more competitive and perform better under a new coaching change. 

“This year’s been pretty good. We had a change of coaches that has made a big difference in the atmosphere around the team . . . I think the year with COVID also helped to build into this with the change that came through COVID and the change through our team,” explained Cowman.

With so many changes having come through the pandemic, Cowman was also asked about what he would like to see return back to normal in the new year, should circumstances allow it. 

“I’d like to see our practices go back to normal. Last winter we were only able to train at home and alone, so I’d like to get back to practicing inside all together. I’m really excited to get back into there with the team weight sessions. I’m also looking forward to hosting some of our indoor regattas,” said Cowman. 

With many indoor sports beginning to take place leading into the break, such as basketball, water polo, volleyball and more, it should be interesting to see how much leniency both U Sports and McMaster allow for and how “back to normal” the lives of athletes can truly get. 

From the explanation of Cowman, sports have seemingly largely returned to normal. However, this largely applies to outdoor sports as these are the ones largely being allowed to proceed. Here’s hoping the same will be said as indoor sports begin to take charge. 

C/O Maarten van den Heuvel

The importance of food and the culinary arts for reclaiming culture

By: Ahlam Yassien, contributor

Whether it be during times of holidays and happiness or in times of grief and sorrow, food has long since been instrumental in bringing people together for centuries. Culture is at the core of cooking. As such, cooking also has the potential to unify different cultures through differences and similarities in their food. Engaging in the culinary arts as a person of colour can play an integral role in reclaiming culture and reconciling different aspects of one’s identity. 

For first generation immigrants, cooking can also serve as a connection to one's homeland, foster a sense of belonging and offer comfort in times when a community may not be established or be missing. 

When Hana and Bobby Saputra, founders of Indonesian’s Flavour, a catering business in Hamilton, moved to Canada in 2014, finding authentic Indonesian food was a challenge. This inspired them to start their business.

“We first started our business in 2019. As new immigrants in Canada, we all always feel homesick and our backhome-foods is one of the things that can heal our feelings . . . Bobby, the owner and chef of Indonesian's Flavour, tends to do his own experiments and cook Indonesian cuisine at home. People always love and praise the food [and the] authenticity of the taste. It happened for a couple years until, one day, we decided to make it as a business,” said Hana in an email statement.

However, at times it can be difficult to find certain ingredients and in this case cooking becomes useful in not only helping ease homesickness, but also in bringing together similar cultures, as you might experiment with more common ingredients here to recreate beloved dishes. 

Indonesian’s Flavour is taking their culture from home and into the community of Hamilton. As a result, it has not only been able to bridge these cultural gaps, but also further strengthen the relationships between marginalised communities through food.

“Maintaining the culture is important to keep the taste authentic . . . Understanding the culture for each area demographically is very important. Through our foods, we would love to introduce our country Indonesia and our culture to the Canadian market so people can experience the diversity of Indonesia through our foods,” explained Hana in an email statement. 

Furthermore, in the case of second generation immigrants, particularly in a westernized society, cooking and food offer an opportunity to reclaim a connection to culture and identity. Growing up, second generation immigrants may have been subject to insensitive or tactless comments, or even bullying, because of what they bring for lunch, resulting in embarrassment and shame. 

“I often loved bringing Pakistani food to school for lunch, as I believed it was a beautiful representation of my culture. However, I quickly realized at a young age how my culture’s food was considered “gross,” “weird” and “unappetizing” among my classmates,” explained Ayesha Arshad, a second-year electrical engineering student and a second generation immigrant.

In the face of these experiences, cooking and maintaining a sense of connection to culture through food can be seen as a form of advocacy and direct resistance to westernization. It can also be a way of reconciling one’s culture with their Canadian identity.

“As I attended more cultural events, I realized how food played a pivotal role in maintaining a sense of my culture while living in western society. Food is a beautiful way of expressing one’s culture and makes me feel connected to my family and Pakistani roots all while being a Canadian citizen,” said Arshad.

As a student studying away from home, food can be a way to connect with family and friends in times of loneliness. By cooking beloved dishes from home or trying a new recipe with friends, there are opportunities to reclaim and explore cultures and to create new memories and connections.

C/O Elena Mozhvilo

While the value of a work-life balance may be well known, its individuality is of supreme importance

By: Ardena Bašić, Contributor

Students and professionals alike are often encouraged to find a work-life balance to avoid burnout and maintain motivation in the long run. However, while we typically think of a stereotypical scenario of this balance being achieved, for example working diligently during the week and relaxing for the weekend, approaches are unique to every individual. 

It is important to reconcile this concept of individuality in our approach to a sustainable lifestyle to avoid feeling like an outlier and remain confident in how we spend our days.

For most people, striking a balance between our responsibilities and our hobbies and passions often comes with general recommendations. Taking breaks from sitting at our desks, making sure to exercise and making time for social activities are only a few such suggestions

However, in looking to apply such recommendations to our lives, we may find them difficult and unsuitable for our particular lifestyles. For example, students may have days completely full of class; on such days, they truly do not have time for more leisurely activities. 

Moreover, busy professionals or parents with children may have to lean more towards work than life — or vice versa — depending on what the day brings. Adhering to such standard suggestions may be doing more harm than good, in that not being able to live up to them can be disheartening and deleterious to our confidence levels. 

A more suitable approach to finding balance in our lives should involve reflection on our priorities at a given moment in time. Each individual will likely have varying primary concerns at each stage in life. 

For students, achieving success in school and related endeavours may mean that their idea of “balance” is more focused on work at the moment. For example, one could find solace in running every day, whereas another person could consider that more of a “work” item in their version of balance. 

Such comparisons should be avoided as, ultimately, one needs to focus on what is best for their objectives and interests over what they feel society expects of them. 

One must also understand the dynamic nature of their life in considering work-life balance. Although one could easily balance work and leisure on a given day, the same is not promised for the following day. 

We need to let go of such perfectionist expectations and instead approach each day with a flexible mentality — one that is adaptable and takes into account both a person’s happiness and goals. 

Letting go of such expectations and the need to fit into societal expectations of the perfect work-life balance is the only way to truly foster individuality and maintain motivation to work for what makes one feel most alive. 

There cannot be a uniform approach to such a concept that is deeply personal to our lives. 

Similar to how we all have different approaches to our education, health and professional life, our unique balance should be perceived in a similar, distinct fashion. 

C/O Marcus Spiske

Moving from abroad for university bittersweet for young adults

By: Sama Elhansi, Contributor

While moving across the world to a whole new country, completely alone as an 18-year-old,  “overwhelmed” would be an understatement to describe the thoughts and emotions coursing through my mind. 

From reading the title, you’ve already guessed where I moved from: Dubai. Given I started my first year at McMaster University in 2020, it was largely online. At first, I was devastated and shattered that I couldn’t physically be on campus. 

However, after a couple of months passed by, I began to see the bright side of online school. First of all, I was attending university from the comfort of my room. Secondly, staying home during that extra year made me much closer to my family, so it really was a blessing in a disguise.  

Before boarding the plane, I was overcome by a wave of sadness, but I also felt happy in a way. It was a bittersweet moment. Nothing really prepares you for leaving home — no matter how ready you think you are. 

Movies and TV shows always seem to romanticize moving out and living on your own. No one really tells you about the downside of moving out. I can definitely say that being independent isn’t as easy as the media makes it out to be. There are so many logistics to take into consideration. 

When I first stepped foot in Canada, I was in awe and memorized by the nature surrounding me. Everywhere I looked, I saw some form of green space. In Dubai, the only nature I saw was mountains of dull sand. Naturally, it took a while for my eyes to adjust to the green environment around me. 

Like any international student first leaving their home country, I experienced major culture shock. Canada, specifically Hamilton, is the polar opposite of Dubai. Whether it was the drastic change of the weather or the people, I was absolutely overwhelmed — in a good way, though. 

When I left my little bubble of Dubai, it really opened my eyes to things I’ve never really thought about before. For example, buying my own groceries, cooking and just taking care of myself in general. Although I faced many obstacles the first month or two of moving here, it really made me stronger as an individual and made me learn new things about myself that I never knew of. 

Since I am living on a student friendly budget, I must cook my own meals. Back home, I used to dread cooking and avoided it at all costs. However, after cooking every meal for several months, it made me realize that I had a passion for cooking. 

Instead of fearing cooking, it became a hobby and a way to destress. 

I would say the only aspect that Hamilton and Dubai have in common is how diverse it is, which was a shock to me. Coming to Canada, I expected to feel like an outsider with my hijab. In reality, I felt completely accepted, no matter what I looked like. 

All the friends I’ve made so far in university are from different countries and cultures, which is something I grew accustomed to in Dubai as well. 

Although Dubai and Hamilton represent opposite extremes of the spectrum, I can see myself calling Hamilton my new home. All the culture shock I experienced helped shape the person I am today. The person I was when I left Dubai and the person I am today are two completely different people. 

C/O McMaster sports

The Marauders are one of only three undefeated teams remaining. 

If there is any team that McMaster students can depend on to win, the men’s volleyball team is as safe a bet as it comes. After having won the championship nine times in a span of only eleven seasons from the 2007-2008 season to the 2018-2019 season and finishing first in their division every year for the last eight years, they’ve become one of McMaster’s premier teams to watch. 

This season has kicked off successfully once again, with the team beginning their season on five consecutive victories. They have become one of only three teams to remain undefeated thus far, along with the Nipissing Lakers and the reigning back-to-back champions Queen's Gaels. 

The Marauders started their season off with an exhibition game against the Gaels, which does not count towards the standings. They would do away with their rival school fairly easily, taking the game three to one. 

The first game of the season kicked off on Nov. 6 against the Windsor Lancers and ended up being their closest game of the season as they won by a slim score of three to two. The following game came against the Guelph Gryphons, in which they won their second game with a final score of three to one. 

The third and fourth games of the season saw the Marauders match up against the Brock Badgers, with the fifth game coming against the Waterloo Warriors. All three of these games ended with a three to zero sweep.

With a perfect winning percentage on the season heading into the winter break, the team is looking to continue their streak in 2022, when they will match up against the Long Beach State University Dirtbags in a pair of exhibition games, to be hosted by McMaster on Jan. 6 and Jan. 7.

Although the games don’t count for the regular season, the exhibition games against Long Beach State University might be the most highly anticipated match of the season. The NCAA division one team based in Long Beach California is largely considered a volleyball powerhouse school, having won the national championship in both 2018 and 2019. Additionally, for a second consecutive season, the Dirtbags’ recruiting class sat atop the entire nation, having been ranked first in the United States and beaten out rivals such as the UCLA Bruins, UC Santa Barbara Gauchos and the Ohio State Buckeyes. 

The Marauders have squared off against the Dirtbags in the past, having faced them twice in the 2017-2018 season, which was also the first year of their back-to-back national title seasons. The Marauders won both games, the first by a score of three to one and the second by a score of three to two.

Beyond these exhibition games, the Dirtbags will return to the United States, where they will match up against their “big name” division one rivals, such as Harvard Crimson, Ohio State Buckeyes, Penn State Nittany Lions, USC Trojans, UCLA Bruins, Stanford Cardinal and others. 

The Marauders will also be getting back to their regular season, beginning the new year against the Lancers on Jan. 15. It will be the first of a nine game marathon before the playoffs begin. The regular season ends on Feb. 27. Should the Marauders follow their long and successful streak, they are highly likely to be one of the teams who will continue to play. 

C/O Ainsley Thurgood

The return to in-person learning in winter 2022 also means the return of students supporting local businesses

Whether it be for a coffee run at Paisley’s or a pitstop for pho at Saigon Asian Restaurant, Westdale Village and the businesses located there are staples within the McMaster community. However, Westdale’s streets lined with red brick houses and tudor-style architecture have been devoid of the hustle and bustle of students since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic in March 2020. Now, Westdale’s businesses are eagerly awaiting the return of the students for the in-person winter 2022 semester to bring life back to the streets of Hamilton.

For businesses in the Westdale area, the COVID-19 pandemic came as a double hit to their operations. Not only were they affected by provincial regulations limiting their services, but McMaster’s transition to online learning also meant businesses in the area lost large portions of their clientele as student leases were terminated and students went back to attending school from their childhood bedrooms

Back in October, McMaster finally announced that the Winter 2022 semester would be fully in-person and students should expect to be back on campus in January of the coming year. To ensure safety and comfort in the return to campus, Back to Mac COVID-19 training is mandatory for all students and access to McMaster facilities will be restricted to those who have uploaded proof of vaccination and completed the MacCheck assessment tool.

Though many students have already returned to life in and around campus, the transition from blended to fully in-person learning is bringing the remainder of McMaster’s student population back to the Hamilton area. Even with the partial return over the last few months, Westdale’s businesses have seen drastic changes.

“Westdale isn't the same without students there . . . Come January, learning in-person will help even more as we depend on students for both business and community,” said Mohammad Emami, the owner of Nannaa Persian Eatery in Westdale.

Overall, the sentiments of business owners towards the return of students have been resoundingly positive.

“The support has just been amazing since [students] have been back and it's nice to see the village lively again,” said Leo Tsangarakis, CEO of The Burnt Tongue.

However, many businesses are still itching for the full return of students to the area. Westdale Pilates, which opened just over a year before the beginning of the pandemic, has had to make extensive changes to its operations due to the lower population in Westdale and provincial guidelines. The pilates studio has shifted to smaller class sizes and more therapeutic classes, especially private sessions. 

Though the small classes have allowed them to put more of a focus on individual growth in class, the studio has had to increase their pricing in order to sustainably stay open. Without the traffic of students, taking classes at Westdale Pilates has regrettably become more inaccessible than pre-pandemic, with increased pricing and fewer student discounts. 

“There’s not a lot of undergrad students coming to classes. Previously, with mat classes being more financially accessible, I could fill them with more people. That would mean I could drop the prices and have a lot of student discounts, but right now only having four people in class, as sad as it is I can’t drop [prices] as low. It has to make financial sense for me to pay people to instruct at the same time,” said Karina Vohle, the owner and founder of Westdale Pilates.

As students return to the area, businesses are beginning to see increased traffic, slowly but surely lifting some of the financial strain caused from operating through the pandemic.

Beyond students, Westdale businesses also largely employ McMaster students to keep their businesses running. At the heart and soul of their operations lies students who have been absent from the area for far too long.

Soon to once again be home to students and families alike, the streets of Westdale are yours to explore. Support local businesses while fueling your craving of the day — whether it be caffeine, bubble tea, korean rice dogs or good old-fashioned soup and a sandwich.

“Now that things are going back to normal, I would encourage [students] to really explore the neighborhood. Westdale has a lot to offer, whether it's restaurants or the coffee shops around the Westdale area. Take advantage of the fact that things are going back to normal and explore the neighborhood and what it has to offer,” said Emami.

C/O Ainsley Thurgood

McMaster students struggle to find safe and quality housing for the upcoming semester 

Off-campus housing at McMaster University is known among students for being notoriously difficult to find while at times being subpar in quality. Students often spend many hours searching for accommodations suited to their needs, and even then, they may have to make compromises to find an available room. Many students dread the hunt for housing and this year is no exception. 

With the news that McMaster will be returning to in-person classes for the winter 2022 semester, upper-year students who moved back home due to the COVID-19 pandemic are now looking to find housing, while first-year students begin to sign year-long contracts for the 2022-2023 school year.

Fourth-year student Mario Panza has been attempting to find housing for winter 2022 to no avail. Despite using multiple sources, including Facebook Housing groups, Kijiji, Mac Off-Campus Housing and free rental listing websites, Panza has only been able to locate one listing in his three hours of searching and it had already been rented out by the time he inquired about the room. 

“If you’re not there within the first thirty minutes of the listing, you basically have no chance. That’s what it feels like right now at least,” said Panza.

Panza also mentioned that the fight for housing wasn’t necessarily due to a high volume of students hunting for houses, but mainly due to a lack of available listings.

“[Before the pandemic] you would at least see listings that would get swarmed. Right now you’re just seeing people asking for houses basically,” said Panza.

For male students, there is an added obstacle with female-only listings, which Panza said applied to about one third of the posts he had seen so far. 

While upper-year students without rooms search for sublets, first-year students are beginning to look for accommodations to sign a contract to prepare for their move out of residence.

Three first-year students looking into housing for the upcoming year, Zara Khan, Leanne Chen and Kirsten Espe, spoke about the difficulties they were having during their ongoing search. They have been looking for condominiums in downtown Hamilton where Espe said the average bachelor she found went for $800, but the group is struggling to find a house that checks all their boxes. 

“It’s really hard to find a good place that has all of the things you need like internet and utilities and a price between $500 to $600 but also looks nice,” said Khan.

They have also been looking at houses further away from campus to try to find one that meets all their needs. While searching for rentals as a group, their priorities have been cheap rent, included utilities and security. In this search, they’re being led further away from campus.

Evidently, the search for housing in the winter 2022 semester is still as difficult as pre-pandemic house hunting, if not more difficult due to a lack of listings and an increasing number of students searching for rooms.

C/O Anna Katherine Verdillo, taken at PNB formal 2019

Student societies, clubs and services are looking forward to in-person events

Soon after the start of the semester, McMaster released a statement regarding in-person classes in the winter 2022 semester with very limited exceptions. In the same update, students were promised pre-pandemic capacity for on-campus student life activities, such as services, resources, events, study spaces and social spaces. In light of this announcement, program councils and McMaster Students Union services have begun considering larger in-person events for winter.

For instance, the Psychology, Neuroscience and Behaviour Society is in its early stages of planning for its traditional winter formal. Dianne Cardwell, one of the Vice Presidents of Social of PNB Society, hopes in-person events can help students forge new connections within the psychology, neuroscience and behaviour program.

“We’ve definitely found this year there seems to be a separation between the second-years and other members of the program just because they’ve been isolated and not in the McMaster community. We are really hoping to make those second-years feel accepted into the Mac community and PNB community as a whole,”

Dianne Cardwell

Similarly, the Bachelor of Health Sciences Society typically organizes a formal event in January along with a club night. Two years ago, they also collaborated with societies from kinesiology, engineering and PNB to host a pub night. Currently, it has been difficult for BHSS to plan much ahead, with changing restrictions and guidelines from the government and the school. 

“For now, we are trying to see if we can plan based on what we know right now . . . But that’s all going to be dependent on restrictions at that time,” said Michal Moshkovich, one of the Social Coordinators of BHSS. 

Recently, on Nov. 25, Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Kieran Moore shared that he expects COVID-19 cases to increase through the winter. As COVID-19 cases are predicted to rise as the cold weather settles in, both the PNB Society and BHSS are continuing to observe the situation closely and are considering planning in-person events for the end of the second semester. 

With lots of ongoing uncertainty and lack of clarity in communication with the university, MSU services like the Women and Gender Equity Network are preparing to do last-minute planning as well.

Typically, in the winter, WGEN has two big campaign weeks in the second semester: Bodies are Dope, which usually runs in February, and Making Waves, which usually runs in March. The service’s first campaign of the year, [Trans]forming Mac, ran completely online from Nov. 20 to Nov. 25.

“[Planning] has been a little difficult based on how much information we receive . . . For now, the plan is to hopefully do stuff in person. But it might have to be really last-minute planning because we don’t know what the rules are, so that makes it a little difficult to plan in advance which we would ideally like because we want to be able to make sure we book proper rooms for social distancing and things like that,” said Neha Shaw, Director of WGEN. 

It is also still unclear whether WGEN’s safe(r) spaces will operate in-person due to accessibility concerns. However, the service has received approval for in-person resource delivery, such as gender-affirming gear, and it is planned to open in the winter. 

In general, the PNB society, BHSS and WGEN are all looking forward to at least some opportunities for in-person gatherings and events. They recognize online events feel intimidating and more formal, discouraging participation, compared to dropping by physical, live spaces or events that feel more casual and natural.

“It’s really hard to get people to come out to these online events and not feel intimidated versus in-person events . . . So far, we’ve hosted second-year welcome day and bonfires and the turnout was great because people are just excited to be back on campus and back in social environments where they can interact with people, even if it means following very, very rigid protocols for COVID,” said Moshkovich.

As much as all the societies and services miss the experiences of in-person gatherings, they also recognize the benefits of virtual events. 

“With virtual events, there’s higher accessibility. You get things like captioning and people can engage to a level they are comfortable with. I know it can be more awkward to attend Zoom events than it can be in-person events, but at the same time, you can log onto an event and not turn your camera on, you can put your [fake] name [for anonymity] . . . you can type in the chat if that’s easier for you,” said Shaw.

At the end of the day, the main goal of student societies, services and clubs is to connect people together and foster community. Whether it continues to be facilitated virtually or back in person, they will all continue to work towards community building and enhancing the student life at McMaster University. 

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