From Durham to Southern Asia: an international student’s experience in lockdown

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Undoubtedly, the year 2020 has been life changing for citizens of the world. The re-evaluation of our lifestyles has been revolutionary and eye-opening. Along with the rest of the world, the South Asian community too has felt the effects of this global catastrophe. 

As a 21st century feminist member of the community, living at home can be defined as strenuous and tough. Some believe in the age-old thinking of ‘blood is thicker than water’, which is a valuable notion, but members who have outgrown the deeply rooted patriarchy in South Asian society have faced a clash in their living situations. The experience I have had at university allowed me to understand other perspectives of people who live their lives in contrast to mine; the effort to maintain a balance between the culture I was born into and new learnings has been arduous.

‘The effort to maintain a balance between the culture I was born into and new learnings has been arduous’

In terms of keeping themselves occupied, South Asian, the homebodies and the more outgoing, have found different ways to spend their time. To beat boredom, South Asians have now set up self help blogs, cooking videos, tried their hands at learning new skills and earn professional certifications while rediscovering their interests and passions. Personally, I have found solace in baking and actively indulged in it.

Over the past few months, international students have been able to spend more time with their families and spent quality time introspecting themselves. Worldwide lockdowns have given them an opportunity to improve bonds and understand perspectives of their own family members in depth. For some, this time has also helped them boost their productivity and begin new projects.  

Being from an Asian household with a lack of privacy and an exam season, our mental health has also been deeply affected. The uncertainty that this pandemic has brought on all of us has given rise to new fears and insecurities in terms of our future careers, relationships and our own life situations. The decrease in employability and increase in the demand for ‘perfect’ candidates has essentially increased pressure to have the ‘perfect’ profile. This pressure has now turned me into the definition of a workaholic, much to my own dismay. For those who have lost family or friends, especially in tight-knit South Asian families, this time has proven to be traumatising and difficult. 

‘For those who have lost family or friends, especially in tight-knit South Asian families, this time has proven to be traumatising and difficult’

Ultimately, this time has been useful in finding a balance between my identity as a student in Durham and as a daughter of South Asian parents. It’s been a journey of figuring out the values that feel true to me and the ones that don’t.

Undoubtedly, there are members of the community who are struggling to achieve this balance, but humanity has a knack for being resilient and adjusting to such situations. Here’s hoping that all of our situations improve and that we discover the new and balanced sense of ‘normalcy’ soon. 

Image: Prerna Rajkumar via Unsplash

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