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Everything you need to look after international students on campus

01 /The international student perspective on COVID-19

The COVID-19 outbreak is a particularly worrying time for international students, more so than for UK students.

Wherever their university is in the UK, home isn’t too far away and there are no borders to cross to get there. If they get ill, UK students are familiar with the healthcare system in the UK, they know what medicine to buy and where to go to buy essential items, whether online or on the high street.

But for international students, they face being in lockdown in a foreign country, miles from home, with a healthcare system they are likely to have never used and a culture that will still feel a bit alien regardless of how long they’ve lived here for.

As the virus hit mainland Europe and Asia first, they are also likely to have seen the effects of it on their parents and friends’ lives back home and will be comparing the actions of the government in their home country to actions of the UK government.

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The UK government’s slow response to the outbreak has worried many international students, particularly Chinese students, who have already seen the effect it has had on society in their home country. In contrast to China’s quick decision to shut down cities and a focus on wearing masks for safety, the UK government kept normal life going for as long as possible and emphasised the importance of washing hands. Many Chinese students felt that the UK government were underestimating the severity of the disease and started questioning what would happen to their degree if they travelled back to China because they didn’t feel safe here.

International students faced a lot of pressure from their parents to go back home too. In this video, Kayleigh, an international student from Paris talks about how her parents thought the UK government wasn’t reacting quickly enough to the outbreak and asked their daughter to come home.

You can see more stories from students affected by the COVID-19 outbreak here.

What does this mean for universities and accommodation providers?
Government advice now is for students to remain in their accommodation and not travel back home. International students are going to feel very anxious and nervous over the current situation, so it’s vital that you can offer them the best pastoral support possible.

That means ensuring you keep them updated with what’s going on, entertained and looked after during their time in accommodation and have a good communication channel with parents and any other guardians.

We’ll cover how to do that in the next card.