In January the government said students should not return to university until at least March 8 and any update on that won’t be known until Boris Johnson addresses the nation next week.
The United Kingdom remains in lockdown and the number of Covid-19 cases remains high. However, that is not stopping international students from travelling back to the country to continue their studies.
The Department of Education in England advised university students “to consider whether they in fact need to travel to the UK at this time, particularly if their course does not require them to be on campus”.
For some students like Zee (her nickname), travelling back to the UK was a necessity rather than an option. “Generally speaking, the huge time difference between my home country and the UK can be quite depressing,” she said.
Studying Geology (Earth Science and Engineering) at Imperial College, she explained that the time differences would have made it impossible for her to keep up with her studies whilst trying to stay awake during her lectures, as most of them were late at night for her.
“Being here in the UK means that I can fully concentrate on my studies without worrying about my responsibilities towards others if I was at home. [The] bonus point is that since London is in lockdown, it means that I get to focus more on my studies,” Zee continued.
Different circumstances for each student
Reducing the spread of Covid-19 in the United Kingdom has been a priority. In some cases, like Zee’s, it was a difficult decision as her family back home were worried about her well-being.
She explained that: “It would be hypocritical of me to say that international students shouldn’t be travelling to the UK. [But] if you require better options for you to be able to study as best as you can, then that opportunity shouldn’t be withheld.”
A student from Kingston University, who didn’t want to be named, said: “I didn’t want this academic year to go to waste, nor my visa application, so I chose to come back for the sake of my education,” he said.
Some international students had already bought tickets due to previous advice before lockdown that they should be back on campus.
Tackling the spread
Although he felt he didn’t have a choice, he said that students coming from abroad shouldn’t be travelling back into the UK as “travel is the primary reason of the spread” and “all authorities are doing their best to keep [the] situation under control [and] we need to respect and abide by the same.”
Anne, who’s studying Pharmacy at UCL, said that her course was exempted from having to have all classes conducted online. “Also, due to pharmacy being a course that needs to be hands-on to build our skills on how to handle pharmaceutical things, I decided [to fly back to the UK] to attend them and take the opportunity to build my skills.”
“The second reason is that I didn’t want to waste the money that I paid for my student visa,” Anne continued.
“Since we are in a pandemic, it’s crucial for us to take care of ourselves and the other people around us,” Anne said, not recommending students flying back to the UK unless it’s very important and necessary for them.
Compared to other countries like Australia, the UK borders were open for international students to be able to come back and carry on with their studies. Nonetheless, all international students coming from outside the Common Travel Area must have a negative Covid-19 test before travelling and quarantine on arrival.