COVID derails UWI student’s summer work plans
Jamaican students who benefit yearly from the J-1 Summer Work and Travel programme have had to shelve their plans for 2020, due to COVID-19.
They are no longer able to count on the money they would’ve earned through the programme, and they have to kiss the thousands of dollars they spent in preparation goodbye.
“I think I can speak for the majority when I say that we had hopes of travelling overseas this summer to gain revenue towards our tuition and other personal expenses. However, corona had other plans and while the student work and travel programme would have provided a temporary sense of financial security, our health remains top priority. And so a cancellation from the programme was inevitable; that, however, came with a cost,”a third-year University of the West Indies (UWI) student told THE WEEKEND STAR.
Under the programme, the
US government allows foreign university students to travel and work within the US for several months.
The student, who has been on the programme before, says she spent more than US$1,000 to be part of the programme.
But, according to the contract, that money can only be refunded after August 15, 2020, and that comes at a price.
“I paid US$1,300 because it was my second time. Other students paid US$1,590. For most of these programmes, there is a clear outline of the refund procedure upon cancellation and an outline of possible reasons for cancellation. For the Students’ Work and Travel (SWAT) programme located at UWI, Mona, the cancellation fee is US$400,” she said. “Many people had to take loans to pay for this programme and would have been required to start repayment way before August 15.”
SWAT collaborates with nonprofit, public benefit, educational organisations that sponsor work and travel agencies internationally.
She believes no thought has been given to the fact that the world is currently facing a pandemic, and US$400, which is more than J$55,000, is hard to give up over a situation that couldn’t be prevented.
“While I do understand that they (the international sponsor) have a staff to pay and utilities, I personally think that is way too much given that their contracts do not speak to what is called ‘force majeure (unforseen) events’, which would encompass the current pandemic. I have accepted a US$400 reduction because the lengthy court proceeding isn’t something that I want to focus on while studying; it was a lesson learnt,” she said.
THE WEEKEND STAR attempted to get a comment from officials at SWAT without success.