How International Students in the UK can cope well amid the COVID-19 pandemic

Study Tips

April 07, 2020

 

As the COVID-19 pandemic grips the world in a crisis, it has become a cause for widespread concern, stress, fear and anxiety. The situation is unprecedented and therefore nations, institutions and universities are responding in accordance.

These fears aggravate particularly for international students, who find themselves stuck in a foreign country, with little to no support system. Not to mention, social isolation can be hard on individuals as is. If you are an international student stuck alone in the UK amid the pandemic, we are here to tell you that you are not alone. To assuage your fears, we talked to students who are currently in the UK amidst the lockdown and found out how they are coping.

 

 

Deeksha Kumar, a Master's student at the University of Aberdeen, Scotland, originally from Delhi, India shares the timeline of how things unfolded in the UK, "January and February were fairly quiet, as we hadn't really felt the intensity of the cases here in Scotland. But as soon as March began, our conversations were peppered with 'social distancing' and 'self-isolation'. I have a part-time job at KFC and the change was palpable there as well." 

 

Auguste Lehuger, a French student at École Polytechnique, came to study for his Diploma year (fourth year of his engineering program) at Imperial College London in the computing department. In the sequence of events, he thinks that there was a general sense of awareness about the pandemic, especially with so many students coming back to the UK after spending holidays with their families.

Auguste Lehuger 
 

He adds that Imperial College was ‘among the first ones to take account of the situation and take appropriate measures. Emails were being sent constantly, the University’s internal communication platform was flooded with concerns about physical examinations considering the statistics. ’


 

The University Response: Online learning

The University of Aberdeen formed a COVID-19 response team, and they kept the students updated on all the measures they were taking on the administrative and teaching fronts - in tandem with the larger picture of the pandemic. Face-to-face teaching was suspended around March 13th. 'Emails were being sent out everyday and the whole process was transparent', Deeksha informs Student Circus.
 

Learning has shifted to virtual platform, MyAberdeen, where lectures and study materials were being shared even before the pandemic. Assessments have been modified, too. Field trips have been cancelled and tests are now open-book assessments, but study materials have been provided to compensate for the lost experiences.

 

Here are some resources that can help you as online learning takes over

 

Auguste’s experience echoes a similar pivot to online learning and other resources. ‘Our assessment in mid-March was an online one - we received the assessment as a .pdf document and had to turn it in within 2 hours.

He adds, ‘the University also extended support for students’ mental health in the many, many rounds of emails we received.

 

Many students are in the UK because the window of opportunity to make the decision of whether to fly back home coincided with assessments. It made sense to stay back, with the rental agreements in place for the private accommodations. The coordination for his research project didn’t get impacted as much - the exercise of research being an online-intensive one.

 

Just like Auguste, Deeksha stayed back, partly out of circumstances and partly out of choice. She shares:
 

I had a research project that ran from January to March. So, I had another week of lab work to do, and this wasn’t yet suspended, so I decided not to go home  to India. By the time the lab work was over and by the time the lab shut down for good, it was already March 16th, and the authorities had shut down flights, so I no longer even had the option to come back. Personally too, it felt like a good idea to stay back because I have a lot of assessment due to be submitted.

 

Living in close quarters?

Deeksha lives in the University accommodation. She shares that there was an initial hue and cry about the settlement of contracts, and the authorities were quick on their feet to offer proportionate refunds to those who were leaving.

Resources have been made available in the apartment, the housekeeping team has been proactive and all the precautions have been communicated through flyers, emailers etc. Community areas have been closed down, so safety seems to have emerged paramount in the response. Information about grocery stores, stores to secure essential supplies, etc was provided. 


Deeksha Kumar, University of Aberdeen
 

Tips to take care of your mental health during this time:

 
 

  • Distant socialising amid Social distancing: call up your friends and family regularly and stay in touch with them.
  • UK guidelines of the lockdown allow for one physical activity in a day, so make use of the same and step out for some exercise or change of surroundings. 
  • Limit your exposure to news related to COVID-19. It is important to stay updated, but there’s such a thing as too much news.
  • Use the counselling support offered by your University. Isolation and loneliness can take a toll on anyone, so it is okay to reach out for help!
  • Kumar suggests falling back on your spiritual beliefs. She practices Nichiren Buddhism, and that makes her feel centered. Practice deep breathing. 
  • Have regular meals and hydrate throughout the day.
  • If you can find some fruitful hobbies to engage in, it is great, but don’t fret if your productivity takes a hit in light of all the scary news and the looming uncertainty.
 

Here are some handy resources to help you deal with COVID-19 related anxiety and stress:
 

 
 

Stay safe!

Featured Image Credits:
©École Polytechnique – J.Barande

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