‘I want to see my friends again’: International students on being away from Lancaster

‘It feels like I’m not getting my tuition’s worth’

Lancaster University is home to many international students, and this year’s constant on-and-off lockdowns and mixed government guidelines haven’t been easy on them. Since the third lockdown, many international students who went home for the holidays weren’t able to return immediately, and now with the closing of the travel corridors making the journey more complicated, it’s likely they won’t be able to return to Lancaster at all.

Many students in the UK have expressed that studying from home, despite being in the same country, has been quite difficult, so how hard has it been for students who aren’t in the UK at all?  We spoke to Lancaster’s international students about what it’s been like studying at home, away from university and abroad. Many agreed that living at home and being a student has been quite disadvantageous for the most part.

‘I find it harder to stay focused because the serious atmosphere isn’t really there at home’

Tamás, first year, Advertising and Marketing

Irina, a first year criminology student from Romania, told us that “it’s been pretty difficult for me, I don’t have the same motivation to study”, which a lot of other students have agreed with. Tamás is in his first year studying Advertising and Marketing from Hungary. He said that he misses the social aspect of university: “It’s really sad that I haven’t met the people on my course yet. Since this is my first year, I haven’t had a chance to experience in-person lectures and seminars,” but he’s trying to remain optimistic about it.

‘I don’t know what’s going on’

Beyond just the struggles of missing the uni experience and feeling unmotivated, a lot of students are struggling with the practical side of university. “I couldn’t access all the texts I needed from here, and my books still haven’t been delivered because of delays due to lockdown” says Karina, a second year English Literature and Creative Writing student from Indonesia. It seems that a lot of students abroad have struggled with accessing the library resources, and when reaching out for help, Lilli, a third year History, Politics and Philosophy student from Germany, has said that “they aren’t that helpful or just don’t respond.”

Even though the government has made exceptions for students who are on practical courses, Tanvi, a second year Psychology student from India, is worried about missing the in-person practicals, because of her being stuck abroad: “I’m worried I’ll miss out on something that’s talked about in the live practical but not on the online ones, because the lives aren’t usually recorded.”

‘I’m afraid that I won’t be able to perform to the best of my ability’

Lilli, third year, History, Politics, and Philosophy

For many international students, time zones have started to become a problem. Tanvi says that it’s certainly not convenient: “My seminars can sometimes last until 11:30pm, and some tutors ask for cameras and microphones to be on, which can be challenging when your whole house is sleeping.”

But time zones haven’t been all that bad, especially for students who are ahead of the UK time zone: Irina says that sometimes she has two extra hours to submit her deadlines because of the time zones, and Tsvetomira, a second year Advertising and Marketing student from Bulgaria, says “If anything it’s been nice not having to wake up early for 9am lectures.”

‘It feels like I’m not getting my tuitions worth’

Many students hoped that they’d be able to return after the Christmas break and that the situation might have gotten a little better. However, this isn’t the case, and for the time being, most of our international students are stuck at home abroad. When asked about the closure of the travel corridors, many students expressed confusion. Lilli said: “The rules are quite contradictory and not explained very well and the government is very slow on updating their website”.

Nandini, a 1st year Business and Economics student from the UAE, expressed the concern that she isn’t getting her tuitions worth: “Us international  students pay approximately £20,000, plus we aren’t even sure if the £400 goodwill for the rent applies to us.”

A lot of students who are stuck abroad have student houses in Lancaster that they can’t access and have to continue to pay for. It’s especially stressful because they don’t know when they’ll be able to come back, and there’s the issue of leaving all their belongings in Lancaster: “I don’t know what to do with my house and the belongings that I left behind, at some point I’ll have to go back,” says Niya.

‘It is good to be home, I love my family and spending time with them’

Irina, first year, Criminology

Despite the feeling of missing out on the whole uni experience, it’s not all bad as a lot of the students expressed that, overall, it is nice to be home. “At home I don’t have to worry about feeling homesick,” says Nandini, something that a lot of students at university and struggling with, and Tsvetomira adds that “I like being at home because it’s more comfortable – people here speak the same language as me”.

Karina says that one of her favourite parts of being home is that she has a “good support system”. Lilli likes being home because “I like the warm meals, I’m not that good of a cook so.”

‘I want to see my friends again’

When asked if they were anxious in regards to their eventual return to Lancaster, whenever that may be, most students agreed that they were, some in a good way, some in a bad way. Niya expressed that she is worried about returning to university because “I’m not sure how teaching will go, and if it’s going to be safe” and Karina is worried about the effects that returning will have upon her mental health: “I’m a little anxious because I’m afraid of all the adaptations I’ll have to go through again. I think I’m going to need a lot of mental preparations.”

The general feeling is that everyone would love to see their friends again: “I can’t wait to see all my friends and get to know them better,” says Irina. Tamás adds that: “I’m really looking forward to returning to campus as I’ve really enjoyed being with my flatmates, and it’s a bit boring sitting at home all day. Also, I miss Sultans.”

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