‘Despair and frustration’: International students on their experience during the pandemic

‘International students have been blatantly disregarded’

At the beginning of this academic year, international students were asked to travel to Warwick, with assurances of in-person classes and face to face teaching. Many felt anxious to travel during the pandemic and  now in Term 2, we see that the tone from the university and the government alike has changed. Their new message? Stay in your country, do not travel back to the UK.

Uncertainty due to lack of communication from the University has led to many international students having anxiety about what they should expect throughout this term.

With face to face teaching unlikely to recommence soon, we spoke to some of Warwick’s international about their worries and fears for the future of their university experience in the UK.

‘Was it worth moving to the area for less than six months of face to face learning?’

An Italian PAIS Postgraduate student told us that she is currently questioning “if it was worth moving to the area for less than 6 months of face to face learning and any other possible future learning activity extremely restricted.”

They explain further that they felt that even though the situation of the pandemic is unpredictable the University of Warwick made a “huge mistake in inviting us to come to campus.

“With a lockdown in December and restrictions in November, I haven’t had any opportunities to make friends or explore the area.”

A lack of communication from the University and respective departments during the beginning of the second term has also left international students in the dark sparking feelings of anxiousness which they say has had an overall negative impact on their mental health as they look to the future of their university experience this academic year.

‘Lack of communication is a major issue’

A Norwegian International Political Economy Postgraduate and an Italian PAIS Postgraduate we spoke to both expressed the same sentiment in regards to lack of near to no communication from the University during this distressing time.

The Norwegian postgraduate told us “lack of communication is a major issue. My department hadn’t contacted us the entire break and we have been left to our own devices.

“Additionally, when they do communicate something to us they are very vague which is unhelpful. It would be more assuring if they were able to give us recommendations and tell us more about what they know to be happening currently.”

The Italian postgraduate we spoke to also expressed a similar sentiment towards the lack of communication from the university and their department. They said that “initially, the university was very responsive, and I felt they were ‘checking in’ often with email and updates.

“However currently, I received nothing from the university or the department. Honestly, I was very unsure of what do to. Whether to stay at home and delay travelling back to the UK or to return when I had planned to.”

‘With the Australia-style hotel quarantine being discussed in Westminster what are international students to do?’

However, the lack of communication isn’t the only thing making international student anxious over the future of their university experience. Many have expressed concerns over Westminster’s absence of care regarding university students as a whole and the looming possibility of pricey quarantine hotels.

Further investigation into the Coronavirus Act has highlighted that the decisions and communications of universities have been limited by the Coronavirus Act.

Many institutions and departments have been left under pressure even though they are limited in action they can take due to the act.

A German International Security Postgraduate student echoed misgivings from the government telling us that “not only have university students been left out by the government’s patchy agenda but specifically international students have been blatantly disregarded.”

“This is not about money, this is about being considered part of society in the first place. Students are used to living on a tight budget, but some of us are currently putting all our energy into staying sane and meeting the financial and educational demands that our universities have put us under.

“With the Australia-style hotel quarantine being discussed in Westminster, what are international students to do? How are we going to afford a four-figure amount upon returning to the UK?

“I am living on two loans and can barely afford rent. Moving back to my parents’ house is not a decision I made lightly, with both having serious mental health problems which is a burden I have shared for years.”

The German postgraduate student expressed concern over returning to the term-time address. “Returning to my term-time address would more than likely mean a month-long stay-at-home situation in an unfamiliar, enclosed environment while having to excel at postgraduate courses.”

As highlighted by these international students, lack of communication and guidelines, financial stress and the looming extra expense of quarantine hotels have all led to having huge effects on their ability to produce high-quality academic work and most importantly their mental health.

The university gave the following statement in response:

“The university has continued to provide regular updates and advice to international students in our community throughout the pandemic to inform them of government regulations, events and activities on campus, and to signpost the wellbeing and support services available to them.”

They shared the following resources for students looking for guidance and updates: the international page , (updated 8th March 2021), MyWarwick, and the coronavirus homepages (general, for arrivals, and support).

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