Life as an international student during a pandemic

Student Communications Ambassador, Sophie Gonzalez, shares her experience of living in Bath as an international student during a pandemic.

As my second year at university is coming to an end and the restrictions are starting to ease, I thought it would be a good time to look back on this year and share what it’s been like for me. Hopefully, you'll find this blog helpful and reassuring in these uncertain times.

Look after yourself

Firstly, I think it’s good to acknowledge that international students may have had very different experiences this year. I chose to stay in Bath the whole time, whereas others might have chosen to stay in their home country, or have been able to go and visit throughout the year. This is a very personal decision and my advice for any incoming or returning international students facing this would be to consider the advantages and disadvantages of both.

Advance your English skills

My main reasons for staying in Bath this whole time were having a part-time job here. This gives me a level of financial freedom, but also hearing and speaking English every day is a considerable advantage for my studies! I went back to France during the very first lockdown and I quickly found that it was getting harder for me to think in English, which made things a little bit more complicated when I had to write assignments, speak during classes or chat with my friends. This would obviously be different if English is your first language, but as a second language speaker, I find that living in the country that speaks the language you're learning is definitely a big factor for feeling more successful with studying, but also for feeling more accomplished with yourself.

Plus, I also chose to study here for the experience of living abroad, so it made sense for me to stay rather than go back home. Now looking back, I think I made the right decision as this year was still enjoyable and fun, only in a different way. I feel like my friendships over here have grown much stronger because of these particular circumstances, and I’ve explored Bath and its surroundings a lot more than I did in my first year!

Embrace the different experiences

I haven’t visited home at all this year, which has been a long and unusual stretch since I usually tend to go back for Christmas and Easter breaks. However, one perk is that I’m now really looking forward to going back this summer and I’m sure I’ll make the most of my time there! Like me, you might have to experience a slightly strange Christmas or birthday, with friends only, and the family video call going on as you try to simultaneously open up the gifts. Looking back, I’d say it was still interesting and quite fun to have a different Christmas this year, even though it was difficult. If you're ever in the same position during these events, I think the best thing to do is to just accept that it'll be completely different but not any less enjoyable and to have the most fun you can have with your friends and the people around you!

Stay connected

I found that actively keeping in touch with family and friends from home was essential this year, but also to make sure I spent quality time with friends over here. Overall, I think it’s very important to make yourself feel surrounded by people who bring you care and comfort and to establish a support network for the bad days (and the good ones!).

Finally, my last piece of advice would be to go easy with social media. I found that it could be particularly demoralising to look at what my friends were doing back home under different restrictions, whilst a national lockdown was going on here. That’s why not spending too much time scrolling or deciding to take these things with a pinch of salt might be a good idea! All in all, it’s also nice to remember that these are exceptional times, and they may be difficult as we live through them but they’re not life-long and there’s still some fun to be had whilst living and studying abroad!

I hope reading this gave you some insight into what being an international student in these times may look like, as well as some useful tips if you come to be an international student here at Bath Spa yourself!

Disclaimer: The Bath Spa blog is a platform for individual voices and views from the University's community. Any views or opinions represented in individual posts are personal, belonging solely to the author of that post, and do not represent the views of other Bath Spa staff, or Bath Spa University as an institution.



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