The Covid dilemma: Are international students planning on coming back to London?

Earlier this year, many international students flew back to their home countries after the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic. With the new academic year around the corner, international students are faced with a tough decision: return to London for the first semester or continue studies remotely.

For international students, time zones is an important factor in deciding on whether or not to come back to London.

Mia Lewis, a Japanese-British student at King’s College London, has told London Student: “Since I will be entering my final year, being in the same time zone as my classes, professors and university supervisor is a priority for me. Even with online classes, the simple fact of being in London is important for me to perform my best academically.”

Krisha Thandu, an international student from Dubai pursuing her industrial placement in London, was worried about potential travel restrictions later on in the year that could impact her placement offer.

“Given how indefinite the coronavirus situation is, I feel like I will never know for sure when to travel to London. It’s really difficult to travel now as an international student because you have to guess when things will get back to normal,” she explained.

In the end, Krisha wants to come back to London to make the most of her placement year: “Working in London while self-isolating is similar to working at home here in Dubai. It’s literally just a matter of what place you prefer and what’s better for you financially.”

However, the fear of a second wave has halted some students’ plans. Anna Huang, an American student studying at King’s, says, “I am most likely going to be taking my modules online at home. [This] is because it is still uncertain whether there will be a second or third wave which could send everyone home again.”

Although most London universities have made the decision to open their campuses in September, international students are still concerned that online modules and limited extracurricular activities are worth the sheer sum they pay in annual tuition fees.

Divya Manocha, an Indian student in her second year at University College London, says that she has dabbled with the idea of taking a gap year: “The decision of whether or not to return to London for my second year of study was a difficult one.

“A couple of weeks ago, I had my mind set on interrupting my studies and taking a year off to complete some internships and gain work experience. Paying all of my tuition fees for an online experience just didn’t seem worth it.”

Divya has since changed her mind and now plans on studying remotely from her home.

“Talking to my personal tutor, he advised not to interrupt a year of studies unless there had been a sudden emergency or caring responsibility. The decision-making process for interrupting/deferring was gruelling, but I believe I’ve made the right choice [to study remotely].”

Saving on rent and staying back with loved ones were also major factors in Divya’s decision to study from home.

In fact, saving on accommodation costs has swayed many international students from coming back to London. An international student from LSE, who wants to remain anonymous, says that paying rent in London “just does not seem like an option for me, especially since all of my modules have shifted online. The pandemic has taken a toll on my financial situation and I really don’t see myself spending any more money than I have to.”

But for some students, making most of what is left of their university years is important. An anonymous student from India studying at City University told LS, “This will be my last year in London. I plan on going back to India after my education and I really want to make the most of the time I have left with my university friends.”  

A recent UCL law graduate, Miyen Ho, is also looking forward to coming back to London.

“While I’m still undecided on whether I will be pursuing an LLM or an LPC, I’m definitely planning on coming back to London. While I’ve enjoyed being at home with my family in Canada, I’ve found that I am much more productive in London, even if I end up having to study or work from home.”

Given the precarious nature of the pandemic and universities’ plans to transfer most modules online, international students are in a tough spot at the moment. The ultimate decision depends on each students’ financial needs and their confidence in the British government’s ability to contain the virus.

Photo by Ben Garratt on Unsplash.

Editor at London Student

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