In the midst of the global COVID-19 pandemic, there has been a lot of confusion about students starting the new academic year. International students especially face unprecedented challenges, including whether they will be able to travel to start their new terms abroad, and if so whether they will be able to use university or private accommodation.
Initially universities were extremely concerned about whether it would be possible to implement social distancing or ‘bubbles’ in accommodation. Moreover, with many students being legally required to isolate for at least 14 days after arriving in the UK, serious questions were raised about the cost and benefits of not deferring to 2021.
However, though meticulous planning in line with government guidelines, the majority of universities are encouraging students to move into accommodation at the start of the new year. Here are some important things to consider if you are flying the nest and moving abroad in the next couple of months.
It’s possible that if you get sick you may have to isolate yourself from others, or even move to an Infirmary to be isolated from others living in your accommodation. Make sure you have plenty of the essentials, like toothpaste and clean clothes so you can pack a bag last minute. If your campus doesn’t have an Infirmary, it’s likely that you will be isolated in your room, so make sure you have plenty of non-perishable food stocked up to last you at least two weeks.
When moving, consider packing light and only bringing essential items. This will help if you have to move between accommodation while you’re studying abroad. It is likely that you may not be able to shop for things like kitchenware when you arrive, as you will be in isolation, so make plans to have these things delivered to your accommodation.
When you arrive in your new home country, make sure you are aware of where your nearest medical practice is and what the policies and procedures of that country are in relation to COVID-19. In the UK, you will need to register with your local GP surgery, in other countries, you may need to make sure that your medical insurance is up to date. Either way, being prepared is the most important thing when moving to a new place.
Some universities are offering international students two weeks free accommodation in line with the 14-day isolation period that is required when you cross international borders. Make sure you know what your university is offering and if for some reason you can’t make a rent payment due to COVID-19, speak to them too.
Lots of universities across the world are handling the coronavirus pandemic differently. Every university has a different approach, so it’s important to know where your institution stands on many important issues - especially as it often varies a lot from country to country.
In the US, some universities are moving returning and new students from their usual accommodation to make space for Infirmaries. Other universities have decided to not hold classes in person. It’s important to follow the guidelines set in place to ensure that you and others are safe.
Universities and national governments have stringent plans in place to protect both students at home and abroad, as well as residents. It’s important to ask for help if you need it, and to use the support - whether it be financial or pastoral - if you get sick or are worried about the plans in place on your campus.