‘Honestly I feel kind of robbed’: Meet the Sussex students whose year abroad was cancelled by COVID-19

Get ready for some major TBT posts

COVID-19 has caused nearly everyone’s routines to be uprooted, as the world adjusts to these uncertain times. But undoubtedly, this was not the year to decide to travel. Students who were studying all over the world have been forced to come home because of the global pandemic leaving many feeling robbed from the year they dreamed of.

RIP to that study abroad life x

Having set up a different life since September 2019, many are now facing huge cultural shocks as they made snap decisions to return to the UK. Instead of walking through the Singapore Gardens or sunbathing on Bondi Beach many have come back to their teenage bedroom and help their Mum with the dinner every night. It’s safe to say that it’s not quite the dream year abroad people were hoping for.

“I knew that my time in Sydney wouldn’t be the same as before”

Daisy Handscomb, a third-year student studying at The University of Sydney, Australia decided to come home at the end of March. For Daisy, it was out of fear for her mum, who is considered extremely vulnerable, and the knowledge that her study abroad would not be the same.

Daisy standing outside The University of Sydney, where she studied English

In an interview with The Sussex Tab Daisy said: “Whilst the UK had more cases and deaths than Australia, and I’d probably be safer staying there, I’m not having to live with the fear that I wouldn’t be able to fly back to the UK in July, or that my mum would get ill and I wouldn’t be able to say goodbye.

“In this period of mass uncertainty and fear it’s very important for me to be home with my family.”

As lockdowns were being enforced over Australia, Daisy noted: “By that point, I knew that my time in Sydney wouldn’t be the same as before.”

For many, it was the fear-inducing email from Sussex’s Study Abroad department that led many to the decision to come back to the UK.


In an urgent email, the Sussex Study Abroad team urged their students to return to the UK, providing embassy contact numbers to help students return safely. Students noted the email felt like an “unofficial recall.”

“It was better to quit while I was ahead and end the experience on a high”

For Celina Chan, a third-year student studying at NTU, Singapore the email from Sussex made her decision harder: “Sussex were definitely supportive to begin with, but I got really mixed messages and generic emails that weren’t very country-specific which didn’t help.”

Celina standing by the Singapore skyline at night

Although Celina felt the virus was being handled well in Singapore, her reasons for leaving were more practical: “If I got stuck there after my student visa ran out then I would’ve been out of student accommodation with no healthcare rights. With a large portion of the exchange community leaving it really wasn’t the same vibe as before so for me, it was better to quit while I was ahead and end the experience on a high.”

Although Celina, like many study abroad students, is dealing with a “really sudden culture shock” many feel the decision to come home was right.

“Honestly, I feel kind of robbed”

Allison Anumba, a third-year at The University of Texas at Austin, USA voiced the thoughts of many students as she said: “Obviously it’s no one’s fault, but it really did feel like one of the best years of my life had been cut short.”

Allison went onto say: “I try not to think too much about the whole situation because honestly, I feel kind of robbed.”

After studying in Austin with over 120 other students on her year abroad, her decision came as a result of those around her. Allison said: “I lived with loads of international students who were all going home because of the whole corona situation.” She went onto say, “the main reason was honestly because all my friends were leaving.”

Allison on her study abroad year in Austin, USA

Allison added, “I was one of the last of the British people to leave, everyone else kind of heard how bad things were getting and packed up their rooms and left within like 2 days. There were a lot of tears, myself included!”

However Allison remains positive, as a lot of her international friends are in worse situations. Some are still in Austin and are not allowed to leave, and others were not allowed back into the US after spring break and had to leave most of their things in their dorm. She said: “I feel fine, I’m still doing my uni work for UT but I finish Friday and then I’m free, so at least I’ll be less stressed and can just kind of forget about everything.”

“The whole experience was pretty upsetting to say the least” –

Third-year Megan Hardie had been studying at the University of Adelaide, Australia for over eight months. Commenting on her time being cut short she said: “It was honestly gutting.”

Megan at the Adelaide Fringe Festival, Australia

Like many others, the email from Sussex led to a stressful situation and quick decision making. Megan said: “The fact that it happened within a week was super stressful, I kept questioning whether I was making the right decision to leave or not.”

Trying to adjust to her new life in lockdown back in the UK Megan said: “After the excitement of seeing my family wore off, I didn’t really know what to do with myself. Being in lockdown just made me miss Australia even more.”

So, for many study abroad students, it’s going to be a fair few months of FaceTiming far away friends and endless TBT posts on Insta, as they adjust to their old life back in the UK.