Written by Konstantinos Kolokotronis
Lockdowns can be rough. The restrictions on the simple acts of commuting, going out for a walk and visiting a friend – frankly, the restrictions imposed on all kinds of movement outside home can become frustrating over time.
Students face the challenge of studying and being required to submit assignments in a fundamentally hostile environment. All measures and safety regulations that are put into place aim at halting the, otherwise unrestrained, spread of the coronavirus, and, although beneficial for the whole of society in the long-term, can result in a variety of problems for the majority of university students in the short term.
Curfews stand in the way of students that may want to visit the library for a productive study session. Campus areas and services may be abruptly ordered to shut down at the wake of an impending rise in cases, and students are left isolated, in many instances lacking any mental well-being and welfare support.
In the midst of all this, we are required to meet our academic obligations and reach our goals, all whilst trying to mediate the variety of negative impacts that this crisis may have on an individual. It is not an easy task by any means, let alone an enjoyable one but, nevertheless, we are still fighting and strive for the best.
In the context of all this, I would like to offer a glimpse in the life of an international student currently studying at the University of Leicester, who has chosen to attend all events for the upcoming semester online in their home country.
Following my personal experience as a full-time EU student in Leicester before the COVID-19 outbreak, switching from life on campus to studying from my home country, has been quite the change.
After getting used to a certain routine and way of life in Leicester, I had to suddenly readjust my study plans and other personal habits. It was disruptive, to say the least.
Since not all academic material can be accessed digitally, not being able to visit the campus library was especially troublesome.
International students who lack access to physical copies of academic sources, have to resort to purchasing digital or physical versions of the required material from the publishers themselves or other providers. Switching to remote learning for the second semester has been a relatively smooth transition for me personally, but the aforementioned problems have had a significant effect on my learning experience so far.
The social implications of the pandemic certainly should not be overlooked either.
Losing the ability to hang out with fellow coursemates in the university’s social spaces is a significant detriment of the international student’s experience. It deeply affects the prospects of maintaining a healthy social life, and the continued inclusion and contribution of international students in the student community.
International students, just as domestic students, do not only live and study in Leicester entirely independently, but gradually become an established member of their social environment or wider community.
Unfortunately, such social connections are currently severed for all students living in Leicester due to the lockdowns restrictions, and are even further broken down when international students make the inevitably difficult decision to return to their home countries. Such physical separation requires constant maintenance of friendships and preservation of coursemate connections via social media.
It is fair to say that life for international students is no longer directly tied to university life and routine. Just as domestic students that are no longer attending their studies on campus are studying remotely from their home city, many international students are having to adapt to an entirely new routine, sleeping schedule and digital life to maintain their education and social life.
In such instances, it is up to the university institutions and the international students themselves to strike a balance to create a successful formula for remote learning and maintaining a sense of incivility and belonging for all students isolated from student life with current social and travel restrictions.
I believe that the University of Leicester has done remarkable work to accommodate the needs of international students when introducing the Ignite approach to remote learning, although there is always space for more improvements and developments, guided by feedback from students themselves.
Konstantinos is a second-year Politics student at the university. I have always been interested in writing whether it was short novellas or articles. As an international student from Greece, I think of Leicester as my home away from home. I feel grateful not only for being part of such a vibrant and open student community but, also for being given the opportunity to write for the Leicester Student Magazine and express my views and opinions on a number of issues that collectively affect us.