Financial Isolation and the Opportunity of Social Connection
For many international students in post-secondary institutions across Canada, the COVID-19 pandemic could almost be described with one word: Isolation
Many students living on and off-campus didn’t just experience physical and emotional isolation but some also experienced financial isolation. Unable to access some of the government-emergency response programs like Canadian Emergency Response Benefit (CERB) coupled with the inability to find work due to high unemployment, the pandemic simply left these students with one of two options: depend on family to send money from back home or become innovative in both positive and not-so-positive ways. According to YouTube, content creation and consumption reached record highs demonstrating three undeniable needs that many international students grappled with; identity, self-care and social connection. Content monetization also saw content subscription services like OnlyFans add up to 3000 creators per week mid-pandemic, mostly putting out content for adult-entertainment-paying consumers.
In all of this, while online outlets for social connection like Zoom, Google Meets and the usual social media services all received massive uptake among international students in Canada, financial service companies seemed to have missed this moat of an opportunity to help solve the problem of social connection for these students. While it remains a significant opportunity to fix, even as Canada and many other parts of the world reopen, the question of who solves the problem of financial isolation caused by the pandemic still remains to be answered for international students in Canada. WU, Wyse and the likes may not have seen it as an opportunity but we should not have to wait for the next pandemic to do something about it.