We asked international students how they coped with their two week mandatory quarantine

‘I asked myself every day why I even made the decision to come here and I regretted it all the time’

For many international students at Lancaster University, the start of the new academic year was unlike no other. They’ve had to make the difficult decision of whether or not to leave the safety of their home countries and travel during a global pandemic to the United Kingdom, where there have been a considerably high number of cases.

With the uncertainty surrounding their ability to return home, coupled with having to undergo mandatory self-isolation for 14 days, international students were undoubtedly faced with a stressful experience at the start of the term.

The Tab Lancaster asked international students how they felt about their return to Lancaster and what they got up whilst being stuck inside for two weeks.

By the end of the two weeks, two of my housemates had different coloured hair”

Emma, an International Law student, arrived three days before the start of term. Unlike many students, she did not have any regrets about returning to Lancaster and managed to pass the time by enhancing her hair dyeing skills.

When asked about coming back to Lancaster to self-isolate, Emma made it clear that she “didn’t regret having come back because [she] was excited to see [her] friends after seven months.”

She credits her housemates as being her “support system during that time,” although she was aware that this is “not always the case for others.”

The only times she questioned her decision was after seeing “quite a few UK students break the rules” which was annoying as an international student who was abiding by foreign rules “just to have domestic students not follow them.”

She continued to say: “It’s frustrating to think that a country with such high Covid rates has the audacity to put a mandatory quarantine on people from countries with much fewer cases, but unfortunately it’s either comply with the rules or don’t come back at all.” 

“Two weeks is a very long time when you don’t have much to do”

When asked what she got up to during the two weeks of self-isolation, Emma honestly described how most of her time was spent “in bed either sleeping, eating, or watching Netflix.”

Like many other students in lockdown, Emma was quick to suggest bleaching her housemate’s hair: “We were bored and even if it turned out badly, it’s not like he could leave the house for people to see.”

Emma used her previous skills from dyeing her mum’s roots and soon her other flatmates wanted to join in: “After seeing the success that was the first dye job, my other housemate felt like she could trust me enough with her hair and she let me bleach the bottom half and then dye it pink.”

I ended up creating a Tinder more as a joke to pass my time, but it just ended up making me sadder”

Final year marketing student, Inês, told us that she regretted coming back to Lancaster. From the lack of routine, the inability to see friends, and being forced to stay inside for two weeks, Inês has found the whole experience of returning to Lancaster “unpleasant.”

When coming back to Lancaster to self-isolate, Inês explained how she felt overwhelmed by negative feelings” after just a couple of days. “I asked myself every day why I even made the decision to come here and I regretted it all the time.

“I felt like the uni motivated us so much to come here with the promises of having in-person sessions and I feel like they haven’t done everything as they said they would.  I’m stuck at home and it’s hard to find motivation for anything.”

Once again, Netflix appeared to be a quarantine favourite as Inês described the streaming platform as the longest most stable relationship of my life.” Other hobbies included listening to music or dancing and even the occasional bit of uni work “here and there.”

She said: “I ended up creating a Tinder account more as a joke to pass my time, but it just ended up making me sadder and feel like I’ve hit rock bottom. I didn’t really find many people of my interest.”

“It was really nice to binge-watch Friends for the umpteenth time without any guilt”

We also spoke to Nayyab, a final year media and cultural studies student. Nayyab decided to return to Lancaster in mid-September to avoid having to self-isolate before term started.

Nayyab said she “did not feel as anxious as [she] thought [she] would” when returning to Lancaster. But she felt that this mostly due to her own “optimism and low-key excitement of starting final year” because the experience is “not the same when you’re doing it from your home country. Although now and then, I do think of how annoying the lockdowns and the restrictions are, it does not make me question my decision.”

She found adjusting to third-year “stressful” and would often lose sleep due to uni work. As a result, her self-isolation involved her sleeping a lot but luckily she still found time “to read some new books and research for [her] dissertation.”

She continued to say: “Other than that, it was really nice to binge-watch Friends for the umpteenth time without any guilt. And if I wasn’t engaging in all of this, I spoke to my friends back home as well as here.”

Nayyab summed up her self-isolation period as “interesting” and explained that although she managed to be “somewhat productive” this doesn’t mean that others necessarily have to be.

International students seemed to have contrasting opinions about their return to Lancaster. Although some were happy to see their flatmates again, others felt as though they had been let down by the new style of teaching. However, one thing that they all had in common was their reliance on Netflix for emotional support and the overwhelming sense of boredom they were faced with.

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