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International Student Life in an Uncertain World

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By Sri, University of South Wales

I wanted to study in the UK since I was a kid, so I decided to do my master’s in the UK. I was an introvert girl travelling to a foreign country alone for the first time, so it took me months to convince my Indian parents.

Scared and anxious, I reached the university accommodation halls in January this year. It was midnight, the night was way darker and colder than I’d imagine. The next morning, I woke up to an amazing view from my dorm room with birds chirping and sunlight on the trees. That warm morning, I fell in love with the university and the UK and I knew I made the right decision.

The staff and lecturers were friendly and made everyone feel comfortable, especially the international students. I made good friends, the place was beautiful, and it was all too good to be true.

Everything changed just a month into the semester. With positive COVID-19 cases increasing rapidly, the UK government announced a lockdown and the university officially confirmed that all the classes would be shifted online for at least 12 weeks.

I was alone and confused. I did not know what to do. I was not sure about returning home as I was afraid my visa would be cancelled if I left the country. I was not sure about staying in the campus for an indefinite period as I was confused about how I would manage everything alone.

I reached out to my course head and one of the international office staff members asking whether I can go back home. I did not think they would be so supportive. I received instant replies from them supporting my decision.

Meanwhile, India announced a ban on all international flights entering the country from March 18. I booked an early hour flight on March 17 to Hyderabad (my home state in India). The journey to the airport from my university took around four hours in the bus and I had no time to pack. I decided to leave most of my stuff in the dorm and quickly packed only essentials.

While I waited at the airport, I saw flights getting cancelled due to border closures and people with disappointed faces, frightened and not knowing what to do next. I had panic attacks the whole night thinking my flight would be cancelled too. I prayed to all my stars until there was an announcement that boarding had begun. I was lucky enough to reach India without any major troubles.

I have never been happier to reach home and see my parents. I thought being home would mean I’d have nothing to worry about, but news stories began to spread connecting COVID-19 cases in India to students returning from abroad.

Neighbors started treating us like criminals. I used to get anxious in the middle of the night fearing I might have caught the virus during the travel. I did not know how to handle this situation. I informed the authorities of my travel and got myself tested for the coronavirus. The neighbors calmed down after seeing my COVID-19 test was negative.

Within a week, online classes started. The online interaction with my lecturers and classmates made me feel so much better. I got busy with classes and assignments and the lecturers are in touch with us answering all our questions. Students who have health problems can reach out to staff 24/7.

I also got a work opportunity as a student ambassador for the university. This chance has brought back all the confidence I lost because of the lockdown. During this time, I learned no matter how difficult the situation is, you will find a way out. There are always good people around us who will help us in figuring things out, we just have to identify who they are.

My tip for future international students is to not postpone your education because of a small virus. A micro-organism cannot stop you from pursuing your dreams and learning should not be stopped for anything or anyone.

My quarantine has been fun because I’ve been learning and yours can be too. By the time this pandemic is over completely, you will have a wonderful degree in your hands, all set to conquer your dreams.

I take pride in being able to complete my master’s degree during the pandemic. This difficult time shall pass soon. Until then, stay safe and happy learning!

The #WeAreTogether campaign brings students together from universities across the UK to share their experience of what it’s like to study in the UK during Covid-19. It is a difficult time for international students right now, but universities are here to support them. Follow us on Instagram for tips, advice, and information for current and future international students.

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