‘I don’t know when I’m going to see my family again’: International student on being stuck in Lancs

‘I’m so scared that I’ll get another email any time saying that they’ve locked down the country’

Following Lancaster University’s decision to suspend all classroom teaching in wake of the coronavirus pandemic, and to cancel Roses in the summer term, students are returning home unsure of the affects on their studies.

However, Boris Johnson’s advice to avoid non-essential travel amid the coronavirus pandemic has resulted in a large number of international students at Lancaster University being unable to return home.

The Tab Lancaster spoke to Karolina Abornevaite, a first year County college student, about being an international student at Lancaster University during a pandemic, trying to get back to her home town in Northern Ireland.

Karolina said: “Me and another flatmate, still in Lancaster heard Boris Johnson’s speech today advising against non-essential travel. I went to my room and cried.

“Everyone has a different definition of essential. I haven’t seen my family in ten weeks and, for me, getting home to them is essential. They’re my support system, I would prioritise seeing them over my physical health without question. But we knew, even as the news was coming out, that this was just the start.

“Within the next week, they’ll change from avoiding non-essential travel to a full lockdown. The flights would be cancelled, the borders would close – now is the last time I’ll be able to get home. But if I could go home would they let me come back for uni?

“I can’t imagine being an international student right now. I’m so scared that I’ll get another email any time saying that they’ve locked down the country. I keep feeling like I’m about to cry and I don’t even feel justified – this is the first time it’s happened to me whereas other international students have dealt with situations like this forever: the Hong Kong riots meant one of our flatmates couldn’t go home. Flight cancellations, epidemics – it’s all happened before and I’ve never been in this situation before but I can’t imagine anything worse.


“I’ve been talking to my family every day. My mum’s been adamant about me visiting a doctor because I have the flu and I’m worried she’ll be concerned about me coming home early while I’m ill. If I stay here, I guess we’ll go to Spoons, have a pitcher (and a little cry), go out for St. Paddy’s Day, and then Sultans (and I can cry to Sal).

“I’m sorry. I’m just trying not to cry right now.”

Kara pauses for a minute to catch her breath, wiping her eyes. We’re sat in her County Main flat where she has been self-isolating with her flatmates, who have been dwindling as they return home, one by one.

“I went to the Ryanair app today. They have a section about coronavirus where you can cancel or change your flights. It was flexible and they gave us plenty of notice about the options over email. I was beyond thankful; I thought I would be waiting on the phone for hours and I wasn’t in a place to talk to anyone twenty minutes ago.

“I’m so glad I got to change my flight in time but the new tickets were so expensive – an extra £60 on top of what I already spent on my original tickets for Saturday. My wallet is crying but I’ll do anything for my family.

“We have a culture here where we tend to take things lightly. No one has taken this issue seriously (including me) until the risk of being locked down came into our minds today. When serious things happen, we can’t just make memes and buy twenty packs of toilet paper.

“If the country took earlier action, this wouldn’t have been necessary. If we followed other countries’ leads instead of remaining steadfastly independent, these measures Boris and the government are taking now would be more effective.”