[media-credit name=”Tara O’Neill” align=”alignright” width=”500″][/media-credit]
Last semester, a group of international students from China decided they would live off campus in Hamden for the 2015-2016 academic year. But since the cancellation of the Hamden shuttles, these students have struggled to figure out transportation options.
The students chose to live in Hamden near the shopping plazas where the shuttle used to have a route with several stops, according to president of the Chinese Student and Scholars Association and junior marketing major Peifang Huang. These students decided they could walk to the shuttle stop to take the shuttle to campus for class.
Huang said the elimination of the Hamden shuttle has directly impacted several groups of international students living near the old shuttle stop.
“[The university] made the decision based on something and we aren’t sure what that is,” Huang said. “I just feel sad because they never considered the international population who will be affected by [cancelling the shuttle].”
“[International students found apartments near the Hamden plazas because they have the shuttle there and they often don’t have cars,” Huang said. “Because they thought they could take the shuttle, they signed the contracts with apartments for a year and now, after we come back, we heard that the shuttle was cancelled so now they have to take taxis or Ubers to go to school every day.”
An easy fix might be for these students to obtain a rental car and transport themselves to and from campus since they can no longer rely on the shuttles. But for sophomore computer information sciences major Xinyu Xu living in Hamden, not even that is a solution.
“There was a shuttle to the plaza and it was easy to get home and go to school,” Xu said. “But now it’s really a problem for me because I don’t have my driver’s license.”
Assistant Director for International Students and Programs Nicole Kurker-Stewart from the Office of Multicultural and Global Engagement (OMGE) said it is common for international students to not have licenses or cars.
Based on their student visas and certain immigration restrictions, international students cannot obtain a license for at least one semester and if they get their license, they still have to go through the process of purchasing a car, according to Kurker-Stewart.
Xu said many students did not even know about the change to the shuttle route. She said some students stood at a shuttle stop in one of the Hamden shopping plazas to catch a shuttle for their first day of classes this semester and were told by other students that the shuttle was no longer running to Hamden.
Despite the struggle it has created for international students, the university maintains a strong stance on no longer running shuttles to the Hamden shopping plazas.
Vice President for Public Affairs Lynn Bushnell said though the students relied on the shuttle to get to campus, that was not why the university created the shuttle system.
“The university established the shuttle system to transport residential students to and from the Mount Carmel and York Hill campuses and to local retail and entertainment establishments,” Bushnell said in a statement. “The service was not set up to transport students from their homes to our campuses. Public transportation is available in Hamden.”
And the indefinite discontinuation of the Hamden shuttle did not only impact the international students from China, according to Kurker-Stewart.
The OMGE found out the week that classes started when an international student contacted them to ask what happened to the Hamden shuttle, according to Kurker-Stewart.
Once they found out the shuttle to Hamden was officially canceled, the office reached out to the international student population to see how many were impacted by the change.
Three groups of students responded to the OMGE to say they lived in Hamden—a group of Chinese students, a group of Saudi Arabian students and a group of Vietnamese students.
“We contacted Public Safety and the Student Government Association to see if we could kind of discuss some options or figure out a resolution,” Kurker-Stewart said. “We’re still working on it at this point. We’re still in discussion [about it] so we don’t know what’s going to happen.”
But Kurker-Stewart is still unsure whether or not the university will agree to reinstate the Hamden shuttle.
She said the students who were trapped in Hamden have found other options like Ubers, taxis and carpooling with friends with cars—which Kurker-Stewart said the university has not offered to reimburse them for.
One of the groups of students renting in Hamden was able to break their lease with a letter of support from the OMGE and move elsewhere.
Though the international students have found other accommodations to make up for the lack of the Hamden shuttle, many of these students still feel passionately about the situation.
For now, these international students must sit in a hiatus, waiting on the university’s next move—should there be one.
Third-year graduate student Ruijie Zhang, an international student from China, said the way the university changed around the shuttle routes was unexpected.
“We, as a group, have several questions,” Zhang said. “If the shuttle can be brought back, how long that would take—would it be back within a semester? Is there going to be any notification beforehand to [the students] if something similar happens in the future?”
Should the university decide not to bring the Hamden shuttle back, Huang had a few words of advice for any future decisions similar to this one.
“I just think they should have announced that they might change the shuttle before the summer started, not just right at the beginning of the new semester,” Huang said.
But Kurker-Stewart said the shuttle changes bring one positive for international students: the North Haven campus shuttle.
“The North Haven shuttle is phenomenal because a lot of our international students are graduates who come here … and are commuting to North Haven,” she said. “In the past, that has been a problem for a lot of our international students so this is great.”