I’m an international student and I feel like we’ve been forgotten in the pandemic

I’m lonely and I feel like a money bank


I’m an international student and the pandemic has made university so much harder. We feel lonely, neglected, and exhausted.

My name is Gia. I’m from Norway and the USA and I am currently in second year, studying film and English at the University of Southampton.

Over a year ago, I traveled from my home country to study abroad, with hopes and aspirations to experience university life, as well as the opportunity to live independently as a young adult. When I look back on my experience at university so far, the first semester during my first year was the most positive and influential months of my entire life – I was thriving both academically and socially, enjoying my new life abroad at university.

This all changed in the early months of 2020 when Covid-19 forced universities to shift to online teaching, resulting in most students choosing to study at home. I was fortunate enough to travel home in March, and I eventually came back for second year in September. I was feeling optimistic about my second year at university – I was hoping to return to Southampton with a sense of ease that with Covid-19 restrictions in place, we would return to some form of normality.

Although everything seemed promising, my optimistic attitude did not last very long

In December, I was meant to travel back to Norway to be reunited with my family before the Christmas holiday. Instead, due to canceled flights and Covid-19, I was forced to reside in the UK during the holidays, away from my close friends and family, feeling isolated and alone. Although I have struggled significantly with adapting to online teaching, where I have little to no in-person seminars or contact hours, that has not been the hardest part of my university experience so far – it has been coping with loneliness.

I can’t help but think about other international students who are currently in the same situation as me, who might be feeling lost, confused, and angry, especially during the beginning of yet another nationwide lockdown. The truth is, international students have not been supported as much as people may think – we have been left in the dark and left to our own devices, considering the amount of students who have been forced to reside in the UK or in their home countries due to Covid-19 travel restrictions and travel bans.

Financially, this has been a difficult situation for us all

Domestic students are required to pay an incredibly high tuition fee of £9,250 for this academic year, which seems unfair and irrational, since we are pouring money into a “Zoom degree”. Despite this, it is worth noting that international students are required to pay double that amount. A petition that calls upon the government to discuss lowering domestic student fees from £9,250 to £3,000, has received recognition on a national scale and has received over 400k signatures.

However, I couldn’t help but think: What about international students? Why is no one voicing their concerns about how much we pay, as well as our well-being as students?

Many international students have made sacrifices to move to a foreign country for their education, with hopes to gain academic skills and to experience an unforgettable “university experience”. However, due to Covid-19, international students have been met with loose promises, high hopes, and a feeling of discouragement. It is worth noting that it is common that international students are met with the same harmful stereotype that we are all wealthy and well off, but this is not the case. Many of us do not have the luxury to afford to spend hundreds, or even thousands, of pounds to book a flight home. For example, I rely on student finance to cover my tuition fees and rent for housing, while remaining and extra expenses come directly out of my own pocket.

Evidently, the system is not tailored for international students

For the fortunate few who were able to travel home for the holidays, that also came with major downsides: the inability to travel back to the UK, adapting to ridiculous time zones, not being able to access certain resources for coursework and dissertations, and coping with a feeling of hopelessness.

Amid a global pandemic, you would expect international students to receive the support they need, right? That’s where you’re wrong. The lack of mention of international students by our institutions and the UK government is startling – it’s been over a year since the start of Covid-19 and international students still have not been integrated into their plans. It is evident that the system that our institutions continue to follow is failing us all.

The truth is – I feel like a money bank

As an international student, it is frustrating to see a lack of articles or news outlets which address the disparities of being an international student during Covid-19. During the current, and last academic year, I feel as if my value as a student has been deemed insignificant and unvalued. I feel neglected as a student, and it feels as if the only value I hold within my institution lies upon my ability to pay my tuition fees.

I’m sure many students, whether they’re domestic or international, might resonate with that exact feeling. There is so much more our universities can do to help support their students, and our well-being and our academic future should be the main priority right now. Our futures lie upon the government and our institutions’ ability to make appropriate choices and to take extra steps to ensure our academic future will not be affected.

While many of us are struggling to cope with loneliness, it is important that the government and our universities continue to work harder to support their international students. It’s easy to feel lonely as an international student in a foreign country during a global pandemic, however that doesn’t mean we have to suffer in silence.

The Soton Tab has contacted the university for comment.

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