COVID-19 has left devastating ripple effects on the lives of millions around the globe, including international students. With classes shifting to online mode, financial hardships rising and mental health deteriorating, international students find it extremely hard to cope with the challenges posed by coronavirus pandemic.
According to a survey conducted by Quacquarelli Symonds in February, one in two respondents feels the coronavirus has impacted their plans to study abroad. 47 per cent have decided to defer their entry until next year, 13 per cent decide to enroll at a school in a different country, and 8 per cent decide to drop their plans of studying abroad altogether. The past academic year has been filled with uncertainties, worries and lockdowns. And if the coronavirus curve is not flattened any time soon, the ramifications are here to stay or maybe gets worsened.
From Onsite to Online Teaching
With the onset of the hazardous pandemic, many colleges and universities shifted to teaching through online mode. Students and teachers turned to online interactive platforms and innovative tools to continue the process of learning. Many exchange programs and summer schools have either been cancelled or shifted to the online medium. However, for the degree courses that involve field or laboratory work, lack of physical classes has been a major blow to the learning prospects of international students. Optional Practical Training (OPT) opportunities are harder to achieve and cancelled. The accessibility to the study resources from the library is also hindered causing many problems to the students for preparing their thesis and exam notes. In some of the universities, exams and thesis submission have been postponed or held in some other formats, which may delay their degree.
Financial Crisis Amidst Pandemic
As the domestic and global economies are going through a major recession because of lockdowns, scores of international students are grappling with grave financial concerns. Many scholarships and funding on which many students rely upon have been postponed thereby giving severe headache to the students. Visa restrictions in some countries like the US prevent students to work off campuses. The major concern is for the students in their final years who had dreamt of staying in the same country after completion of their degree programmes. Placement opportunities have drastically decreased and VISA support is extremely difficult when the economy is in the doldrums. Many universities and self-funded organizations have come forward to provide relief to the distressed students, however, many students feel that the help is not enough. This shatters the dreams of many students who have no choice other than returning to their home countries.
Scores of international students are apprehensive that if they go to their homes in the vacations, they might not be able to return. The visa approval is taking more time than usual, which leaves the students with further anxiety. Besides, there is a cap on international arrivals limiting the availability of tickets. Countries like the United States still has some travel restrictions in place for people coming from abroad- 14 days quarantine is mandatory while re-entry is not guaranteed. Canada has proposed some relaxations while some countries of Europe has planned to go further into the lockdown.
Mental Health Crisis Amongst International Students
Living thousands of miles away from their families and lack of strong support system, the advent of the pandemic has deteriorated mental health of the international students. The rapid changes added by the pandemic posed mental-health challenges amongst students, particularly those who are already dealing with some kind of mental illness. In the USA, students were told that if they are pursuing their education through online medium, they would have to leave the country. However, this decision was taken back after multiple lawsuits and civil society’s backlash challenged its legality. All these uncertainties leave the students with anxiety and apprehensions. Considering these mental health concerns, many universities started offering online counselling services to provide some relief to the students in these distressing times.
The struggle is real!
The upsurge in coronavirus cases has left many countries with no other option but to announce for lockdown once again. It has been around a year, but the coronavirus cases are breaking records with every passing day. Settling up for online classes proves to be less productive than the authentic traditional way of learning. Most importantly, a student’s desire to learn about a new culture or language, visit famous places of the country and make some connections from across the globe seems to be smashed with people’s faces covered with masks and social distancing measures taking the place of popular discourse and the need of the hour.
Aman Singh is a student pursuing B.A. Programme from Jamia Millia Islamia.
Edited by: Nuzhat Khan
Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in this publication are those of the author. They do not purport to reflect the opinions or views of The Jamia Review or its members.