About 500 Thompson Rivers University international students were expected to arrive to Kamloops in time for orientation, which begins Tuesday.
But strikes in Canadian embassies around the world are stalling some student visas and causing tremendous anxiety for the young travellers and post-secondary institutions alike.
"This is one of their great dreams to come and study in Canada and there's uncertainty now as a result of the strike," said Adrian Conradi, TRU World associate director of international student services. "We're trying our best to alleviate the stress."
Behind the strife are stalled negotiations between the federal government and the Professional Association of Foreign Service Officers.
The 1,350 union members say they are underpaid compared to other public servants with similar qualifications and experience. The breakdown in talks led to picketing at Canadian embassies globally.
TRU has been working several angles to get their students to Kamloops and smooth over problems that may arise by delays or inability to get a visa.
TRU World has written embassies to say that they've extended the arrival date from Sept. 3 when classes begin to Sept. 17, the last day to change courses.
"Otherwise a visa officer . . . would say, 'Sorry you're not getting your visa. You missed it,'" said Conradi.
And those students that still can't get a visa on time are automatically accepted into the January program.
Also at stake are TRU residences. Students being delayed have to decide whether they want to take the chance of hanging onto a room and losing the money if they can't make the semester.
"International student advisers are saying if they don't want to take the chance . . . we'll help you find some accommodation when you get here, whether it's home stay or something else," said Conradi.
And thankfully, Kamloops has hundreds of residents opening their homes to students, he said.
TRU is also organizing more elaborate academic support for those arriving late, whether through tutors or supplemental learning programs.
So far, plenty of students, mainly from China, have arrived without delay so TRU remains hopeful the impact won't be tremendous.
The biggest problem with uncertainty is the impact on TRU's bottom line.
"It hasn't been nearly as bad as we thought it would be. But we'll find out next week," said Conradi. "If it turns out to be a significant reduction in students, it will hurt us just like it will hurt almost every post-secondary institution in Canada."
TRU's student union said the situation is causing more stress on universities than it would have in previous years because of cutbacks.
"They're more and more dependent on international student tuition fee revenue since government funding has been decreasing," said TRUSU president Dylan Robinson. "We do know that TRU is definitely very worried because they're heavily dependent on that revenue."
Meanwhile, said Robinson, TRUSU is also making sure its international student members who arrive late receive expedited access to academic supports and services to "make sure that they still have the same educational experience as all the rest of our members."