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Studying abroad in times of COVID-19: What has changed?
Roshna Mohan

Roshna Mohan is a Content Writer at Hotcourses India - an IDP company. A post-graduate in Biotechnology, she chose content writing as her career out of sheer interest. Reading and cooking are her stress-busters. Talk about these to take the introvert out of the ambivert. Her all-time favourite authors are Paulo Coelho, Yuval Noah Harari and Robin Cook.

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13 Aug 2020 Book icon 5 mins Share

Studying abroad in times of COVID-19: What has changed?

The pandemic has changed the way students plan for studies abroad. Find out about the new priorities, measures, requirements and university practices.

13 Aug 2020 Book icon 5 mins Share
Studying abroad in times of COVID-19: What has changed?

Opting to study abroad is not an easy decision to make. It involves days of thinking, deliberation, planning, and discussions with parents, counsellors and others who wish to advise on your future plans. However, the coronavirus pandemic hit unexpectedly, and everything is topsy-turvy now. It has undoubtedly impacted the study abroad plans of thousands of students from India. There seem to be several hurdles to cross and seemingly more uncertainties in the future.

There is however light at the end of the tunnel. Either the world will successfully eradicate the virus, or we will get smarter at living with it without allowing it to drastically affect our lives. In such a scenario, when border restrictions are lifted, you will be allowed to finally go to your study destination abroad. In this article, we analyse some of the areas where you’ll notice changes once you decide to move to your destination country during the time of COVID-19.

New additions to your luggage

First things first, before you go, you need to pack for the big move. Previously it would have been a lot of clothes, snacks, pickles, certificates, books, personal belongings that you can’t part with, electronic gadgets, toiletries, to name just a few things. Now, an item that will invariably find a critical place in your luggage is the face mask. By the time the situation is favourable for travel, fashion would have influenced masks too. There will likely be varieties of styles, suitable for various occasions. You’ll also have to include hand sanitizers in your list of things to pack. A small bottle of hand sanitiser should be part of your hand luggage and a larger one can go into your main luggage.

The way you pack will also matter. It will be ideal to have a piece of hand luggage with essential items so that once you reach your quarantine facility, you needn’t unpack your entire luggage to find each item. We’ll explore more about the quarantine process later. It is advisable that you have a list on your phone with details of items in each bag so that it is easier to access things rather than dig through the entire 20 kilos of luggage you took from India. Apart from the masks and hand sanitizer, it is good idea to have a pair or two of gloves, and a face shield if you are comfortable using it.

Health takes centre stage for students

Earlier, the common cold was one of the least attention-grabbing illnesses. People were concerned about contracting the illness mostly because they didn’t want to go through the inconvenience that comes with it. Nobody would have feared for their lives if they hear you cough or sneeze. COVID-19 has changed all that. A sneeze or a cough will draw undue attention and you cannot simply pass it off with a smile. Chances are you will be barred from boarding the flight if you have a cold along with a mild temperature. In short, it is imperative that you stay fit. 

Some people tend to fall sick very easily. A late-night shower or a drizzle is enough for them to come down with a cold and runny nose. Be aware of your body’s immune responses. You don’t want to end up giving off false alarms with symptoms similar to that of COVID-19. Take no risks, no dancing in the rain if you have a weak immune system. No ice-creams with Gulab Jamuns for ones with a sensitive throat.

More tests on top of the vaccinations

The destination country you are traveling to will be interested in your health status more than ever before. You might be interrogated with multiple questions regarding your health, location details, and quarantine plans. You have to cooperate with the authorities as they are working in the best interest of all individuals. You will have to undergo medical tests in India to ensure that you are free of the virus before you board the flight. You might have to undergo similar tests once you touch down.

Authorities will look for symptoms of COVID-19 before they send you to the quarantine facility. Some countries want immigrants to arrange their own quarantine measures, while other countries are offering quarantine facilities for which you will have to pay. Once you are in the quarantine facility, the hand luggage with all essential items will give you easy access to stuff you need to last you through the 14 days indoors.

More rules to follow

Social distancing, wearing masks and avoiding crowded places are something that you’ll get used to doing. You will find several rules and regulations in and around campus to prevent or at least, limit the spread of the virus. There are reports that accommodation facilities are converting multiple sharing rooms to double or triple sharing to ensure that there is enough space between the occupants. 

Single entry-exit arrangements will be made within accommodation facilities, as well as the campuses. You will have to swipe at every entrance at the university so that your presence is recorded. In the event of a case of infection, this will help officials track down the individual’s route, find all possible contacts and quarantine them. While some might find this as an intrusion of their privacy, it is for the greater good, to ensure the safety and wellbeing of all students and staff on the campus. 

Your temperature will likely be checked when you enter the campus. Class numbers will be reduced so that social distancing can be practised effectively. Your desks might have shields. Learning might be a mix of face to face lectures and online sessions. Many social events will still be held online. Hygiene will be given utmost priority. Most of the universities have dedicated bodies assigned to take care of COVID-19 preventive measures. The social distancing norms will extend to all spheres of society and even public transport will be running on a limited capacity. 

This might be overwhelming and that is why the Universities UK, the representative organisation of UK universities proposed the idea of a ‘protective bubble’ in which students of the same course, who are part of a bubble, have the liberty to interact with each other without any limitations. However, students will have to practice social distancing and take all precautionary measures when interacting with other 'bubbles'.

Updates from universities across the globe

The University of Hull has said that the university functions and services will remain operational, but many will switch to online. They are providing dedicated rooms for students who have to self-isolate. Library services have been switched to online. Hand sanitisers are made available in common places on the campus. They are also undertaking regular thorough cleaning at the campus and ensuring that health and safety measures are implemented. 

Queensland University of Technology in Australia is offering on-campus and online learning in line with the government directives. They have their library and computer labs open, but students can also reach the librarian online.

The hashtag trending at the Oklahoma State University of USA is #FlattenTheCurve. The university urges practising social distancing and wearing masks to protect individuals themselves and others. They have a pandemic response team that comes up with ‘progressive sanitation measures’ to ensure safety and hygiene. They are also providing free hand sanitizers for employees and students.

Trinity College, Dublin is planning on conducting workshops to share best practices for keeping COVID-19 at bay. To ensure students have seamless access to the library, they have introduced ‘click and collect’, ‘Scan on-demand’ and even postal delivery service. Safety protocols and social distancing is a must at Trinity College.

The University of Alberta, Canada has also made masks mandatory from 1 August 2020. They have a rapid response plan to tackle any single case infections or outbreaks within the campus.

The University of Canterbury, New Zealand is conducting exams online and some of these are open-book exams/quizzes. They allow students to apply for special consideration if they are facing struggles due to unforeseen circumstances.

Universities are coming up with innovative methods to tackle the virus while also ensuring uninterrupted learning for students. Students, in turn, will be expected to cooperate with social distancing measures and hygiene practices. It may take time until you get used to these practices, but you will. If you are looking forward to continuing your studies online, you might be interested in knowing more about the online now and on-campus later model of course delivery. You can also check out our latest news page for more up to date information on what’s happening in the higher education sector across the globe.

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