What it’s like being a Cardiff International Student during the pandemic

We’ve pretty much been left in the dark

Being an international student in Cardiff this year has been a real struggle. From trying to manage the difference in time zones, to having to adjust to COVID rules that are different from your home country. Not to mention the most important factor of all: constantly missing food from home.

With all this in mind, here’s what it’s really like being a Cardiff international student during the pandemic.

You Miss The Food From Home

Being a long distance from our homes, our families, and our cuisines, means we tend to miss and CRAVE what we can no longer have. Although we can attempt to replicate and cook the same foods, it misses our mother’s touch – or even just the touch of our home kitchens. 

I once tried to cook my mother’s recipe for Machboos (which is a UAE dish with rice, spices, and a protein (chicken/meat/seafood) in Cardiff. Although it tasted good, it absolutely missed those magic touches from my mother’s hands, and definitely did not taste as great as hers. 

There’s also the additional issue of finding those local ingredients, like Maggi noodles here in Cardiff for example. Amazon comes to our rescue here, but again – it just isn’t the same.

COVID rules are not the same back home

If you are an international student, chances are that the rules surrounding the pandemic are not the same as in your home country. For example, when I first arrived in Cardiff in September, I slowly discovered that masks were not required (although this rule has now changed). However, coming from the United Arab Emirates, this was a real difference! Each venue is required to check your temperature before you enter and I was mandated by law to wear masks in most public spaces (beaches, mosques, parks, gyms, malls, beauty salons, driving centres, cinemas etc). 

Also, although Wales is currently in another national lockdown, I just learnt through friends that the UAE’s biggest festival has opened (Global Village). Side note: this festival has some of the best foods, entertainment and games on Earth! I’m definitely missing out right now. Excuse me whilst I cry. 

Zoom calls with different time zones

This is arguably one of the most difficult things that an international student has to face (though maybe not as hard as trying not to burn things down while cooking). Being a long distance from home can bring its own challenges and, for most of us, we tend to miss our loved ones. Although it can seem like Zoom makes things easier, having different time zones definitely does not! And if you’re like me and hate numbers, then the chances are you will mess up your time zone calculations at least once.

And for the international students at home: how does the Uni expect us to remember, or even stay awake for, a ridiculously early/late call?

Isolation Periods 

If you or one of your flatmates show symptoms and/or have a positive COVID test, then you’ll be required to self-isolate. This is an extremely challenging situation and as an international student, you might feel even more isolated (being miles away from home, on top of being confined to your flat). So many students are already isolating in Cardiff, so it seems almost unavoidable.

Studying Online 

As an international student, we can face some unprecedented challenges, especially during COVID. For many of us, we might have travel restrictions, or our personal circumstances don’t allow us to come back to Cardiff.

Luckily, most departments allow remote study and this has been a relief to many. Having said that, however, there are obviously some key issues with this as an international student including juggling online studies, different time zones, and perhaps some other responsibilities (either personal or professional). 

For instance, we might be less motivated in our home environment. We may have younger siblings or babies around, the house may be noisy, or we simply just don’t feel as focused compared to sitting in our Cardiff flats. This, in turn, is a real struggle and we may feel the rippling effects of this unfolding in the months to come – when deadlines, exams and assignments approach.

If you are struggling, don’t worry! You’re definitely not alone. Cardiff University has a great system of Student Support and Wellbeing, especially for us international students! Just email: [email protected]


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