‘Catch me if you can’: international students’ struggle with Omicron and Durham University’s role

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One thing is clear, and it is that being an international student is close to gambling with your life. Recently the outbreak of the Omicron variant has been causing a headache for everyone and especially for international students. As Michaelmas Term came to an end, students once went on with their travels abroad, however this time with anxiety about what is going to happen next.

An international student must have exceptional planning skills, and should always be aware of the latest on Covid-19 – both in the UK and in their home country. Otherwise, they will not be able to keep up with the ‘chase.’ An international student myself, I am well aware of the anxiety and frustration that studying abroad elicits. In fact, especially around the start and end of the term, students have to balance a considerable amount of miscellaneous tasks with academic work. For example, I had to book tickets from London to Istanbul, manage train tickets to and from London, and get additional tickets for the airport express train. I had to plan all of this without prior knowledge of transportation in London or around the airports while also trying to figure out restrictions and regulations for traveling.

Anxiety and frustration

I believe that if the University sent out informative emails on traveling to the UK every time an update is made by the Government, international students would not have to worry about further research when they have assessed assignments to finish. Furthermore, colleges can be of major support. In fact, here is a brief anecdote to demonstrate this.

The first time I arrived in Durham was on the 17th of September 2021 at midnight. I had four suitcases and three unusually large bags. I had changed two countries prior to Durham as I was not able to fly directly from my country. I stayed in the second country for two weeks all by myself – mind you, I did not speak their language. By the time I came to Durham I was ecstatic as I knew this nightmare-like journey was over and I had made it to my new home. Shortly it turned out that I was wrong: the porter told me that I was not on the system, hence I did not have a room. I was put in a guest room – which was rough, let us leave it at that – and was told to stay there at least three days. What I found frustrating about this was that I winded up in this situation even though I sent out a number of emails to the college, explaining how I would be early because of travel restrictions. This whole experience made me realise three things: colleges should be more tolerant, supporting, and aware of their international student body and their difficulty in traveling.

Colleges should co-operate with international students

There are so many things colleges can do for their international students such as gathering a travel support team that can help students with planning their journey. These teams should focus on developing efficient and sound strategies for students in their travels. Also, colleges should co-operate with international students and welcome them no matter the time or date. Colleges should bear in mind that any inconveniences with arrivals are due to the new variant.

To sum up, it is an especially difficult time for international students as the new Omicron variant is spreading at full speed and affecting travel restrictions. Although minimal, the University and colleges can help with students’ travels as mentioned and provide fundamental ease. The new variant is a stress to all of us, regardless of where we are coming from – we should collaborate and be understanding for a better, healthier community.

Image: Jeremy Bezanger via Unsplash

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