The COVID-19 breakout is by far the most talked about topic in 2020. From offices and restaurants, to parks and streets, almost everything is shut down. Or, should I say, locked down. As we draw closer to the end of the year, there are a few questions that haunt a majority of us: How do we get back to studying? Do we continue with online classes, or will campuses open before 2021? For those who have just graduated, be it from high school or college, the uncertainty regarding where to apply next looms above.
We thought we could help you out by walking you through how various countries and colleges have been helping international students during this pandemic.
1. The U.S.A
More often than not, the first country that pops up in one’s mind while talking about studying abroad is the U.S. After all, around half of the world’s top 50 universities are located here, including the famous Ivy Leagues. However, with rising COVID-19 cases and all the confusion about visas, the U.S may be on the verge of losing its place as the number one choice.
During this crisis, many top universities have been reaching out to international students, facilitating COVID-19 tests for them, and giving out free masks. Testing and treatment for COVID-19 are also covered under international student health insurance plans. For the fall semester, few universities such as the University of Kentucky are planning on handing out PPE kits to all their students as a way of taking precautions.
As we talk about health, an important but largely ignored factor is mental health, and living in a foreign country while a pandemic is raging is bound to put students under immense stress and anxiety. To combat this, many universities are providing students with counselling sessions, psychiatric help, individual and group therapy sessions, and more.
Apart from caring for their students’ health, universities are also providing virtual tutoring via online classes so that students are able to pursue their studies. They have been assisting students with numerous virtual tools such as Zoom, and are providing non-English speakers with English as a Second Language (ESL) classes. Universities such as the University of Texas-Austin are providing students with assistance on food, emergency housing, career opportunities, and immigration policies.
2. The U.K.
It was announced in 2019 that international students graduating in 2021 or later, would be able to apply for a post-study visa via the Graduate Immigration Route. This will enable them to work or look for work during those 2 years. Additionally, international PhD graduates will be granted 3 years for the same. Following this, a 93% jump was seen in the number of Indian students joining universities in the UK in 2019. As there is a rapid increase in the number of students opting to study in the U.K., it is important to look at how the students have been helped during this crisis.
The British Council and the U.K. government have been working together to keep both current and future students updated on the latest guidelines linked with travelling, health, visas, and college applications. They have been actively sharing information on social media and engaging with the current international students staying there.
Amid the pandemic, a lot of students have been left stranded with their housing contracts expiring and no way to get home. For such students, a student-led NGO called Educating Beyond Borders has been providing food and various forms of counselling and assistance. This organisation is known for helping out international students during and after their studies in the U.K. and has been contacting students in need throughout the lockdown period.
The United Kingdom Council for International Student Affairs (UKCISA), which is an organisation that supports international students staying in the U.K., has launched a #WeAreTogether campaign to collectively combat the coronavirus and assist students in all the ways they can. They are providing mental health guidance and have helpline numbers, e-mail IDs, blogs, and websites to help students contact the right people in the case that they are feeling unwell, are facing food shortage, or have accommodation issues.
Outlining the plans for universities after the lockdown, the government and university leaders announced that they plan on keeping students in “student bubbles” where they will be studying and living together. International students have the option of starting their courses in January 2021. They’re looking at minimising movement to avoid the transmission of the virus.
Australian universities have been providing their international students with financial packages and grants to help them in this lockdown as most of the students rely largely on their part-time jobs for their regular expenses. With most places shut down and travel bans in place, the students have been finding it very difficult to stay in Australia since they don’t fulfill prerequisites for government packages for wage subsidies and social security payments. Deakin University, RMIT University, Monash University, and the University of Melbourne are just a few of the universities that have announced financial aid packages, scholarships, and waivers of fees for their international students. The value of the total financial aid provided by Australian universities is estimated to be more than AUS$110 million!
The Australian government has also been helping students with food, accommodation, travel, and visas, and have laid out the details on what to do when in an emergency. They have made it easier for students to travel to their home countries once the borders reopen by providing them with visas beforehand so they can travel as soon as possible. They also have multiple helpline numbers for all sorts of medical emergencies.
Australian universities are planning on continuing remote learning, only providing occasional exceptions to students who require laboratories and need to partake in their practicals.
As one of the most sought-after study destinations, Canada too has been looking after international students in every way they can. The government and universities have come together to accommodate students in dorms or help them to find housing elsewhere as well. They are providing mental health support, helpline numbers for emergencies, and have also allowed certain students to extend their hours of work so that they can earn more during this time of need. There are even programs that are offering financial aid and income support to the students. Regular updates are being posted on this link.
As travel continues to be restricted, current and former students are being given the option to extend their stay, and many are also being invited to apply for permanent residency. Help is being provided to students who have already graduated for them to gain necessary work experience which would allow them to easily apply for permanent residency.
Students who are currently in their home countries have been given the option to study online till April 30, 2021. The University of Ottawa has announced that they will be opening an on-campus COVID-19 testing centre to support their on-campus students and faculty. Universities are looking at a mix of online and offline classes for the coming semester.
Universities and government institutions have gone out of their way to accommodate international students who form an important part of their population and economy. Although uncertainty might be overwhelming you, know that options are open and that you can start preparing to study abroad. As COVID-19 cases reduce in many countries, it is likely that the overall situation will also improve soon.
If you are planning to study abroad in the near future, it’s always important to do your own research. Look up universities and courses you’ll be interested in, and here’s a set of parameters you could look at regarding the current health situation!
|Health||Testing and treatment under health insurance, free masks for protection||Providing details of who to contact in cases of emergency||Helplines for medical emergencies||Helplines for medical emergencies, students accommodated in dorms|
|Classes during lockdown||Virtual classes,ESL classes||Virtual classes||Virtual classes||Virtual classes|
|Classes after lockdown||Providing PPE kits||Student “bubbles”, option to start in January||On-campus only for laboratory/research work||Mix of online and offline classes, international students can study online till April 30, 2021|
|Other Benefits||Aid for food, housing, career opportunities, immigration||Graduate Immigration Route, housing and food aid||Financial aid, waiver of fees, scholarships||Extended work hours, invitations for permanent residency, income support, financial aid|
|Counselling and assistance||Mental health counselling, therapy sessions||Mental health counselling, COVID-19 assistance||Assistance for food, travel, visas, housing||Mental health counselling|
Note: Specific services may vary from university to university
So, what are you still waiting for? Apply to the top colleges on your list, and pave your way to a successful future!