Let’s talk COVID & study abroad.
Yes, I know what you’re all probably thinking: seriously—coronavirus is all people ever talk about!! But, I also know that coronavirus, as annoying it may be, plays a HUGE part in decisions about studying abroad…especially when faced with tackling a new environment with social restrictions.
At least once a day, I am asked “are you glad you came to Glasgow even with COVID-19 and its restrictions?” It was the most asked question in my first two-weeks abroad by family and friends from the states. And if I were in the shoes of someone trying to decide about studying abroad this year/next, I, too, would be asking this same question. So, I thought I would do my best to answer it and give you the perspective of someone currently on an exchange.
HOT Question Answers:
- No, I do not regret coming to Glasgow in the midst of the pandemic.
- Yes, COVID did make getting to Scotland more challenging than a “normal” year, but it is 100% worth it.
- Yes, campus life is not like a “normal” year.
- No, I have not had any trouble finding entertaining and new activities to fill my time.
- Yes, it can be challenging to make friends during this time, BUT I have social tips for lockdown life!
Look at it this way: a study abroad is a once-in-a-life-time opportunity. So no matter the circumstances, it is going to be MAGICAL. Sure, things look a little different, but nothing about the 2020-2021 school year was going to be normal even if we were at our home universities. My tip is to look at it from the perspective that although I have online classes, I am experiencing those classes in Scotland, not from my house in the States. I am experiencing Scottish culture first-hand.
Now, are Nicola Sturgeon’s regulations hard to decipher sometimes? Yes. Was the two-week quarantine in isolation mentally taxing after the long overseas journey? Yes. But, I let my focus be on settling into my new flat, and preparing for uni and to explore Scotland. To be surrounded by hundred year-old buildings or stroll through the orange, yellow, and red canopies of Kelvingrove Park—it was definitely worth it.
In my opinion, the Uni has done a terrific job supporting students. Upon arrival to Glasgow, I did not have time to get groceries, buy bedding, bathroom supplies, or kitchenware (due to the immediate quarantine). But, the Uni had thought ahead! My flat was stocked with a full set of bedding (duvet cover, duvet, mattress protector, mattress topper, fitted bottom sheet, pillow, and pillow case), cleaning supplies (gloves, rags, dish soap, surface cleaner, and toilet bowl cleaner), toilet paper, soap, cutlery, pots and pans, and GROCERIES! Yes, they included groceries—enough items for a few days until I was able to set up a food delivery service!
Social Tips for Lockdown Life:
- Stay active on the “Visiting Students” Facebook page and join the WhatsApp group that is inevitably formed—I met the my first friends through this! Plus, people constantly are asking if someone wants to grab a coffee!
- Join a club here! Be it a sport, dance, game, hobby, or art, there is a club for you! When unable to meet in-person, the clubs offer virtual events and social. Many of the sports clubs are able to meet in-person with reduced numbers. This is a fantastic way to meet both international and “local” students!
- Participate in the online-events at the beginning of the semester. At a “Find a Mate While You Isolate” event I met one of my new good friends.
- Register for a mentor through a college. My mentor has been instrumental with my transition to Scottish student life. We meet up at least once per week!
- Above all, get involved!
I know this year is not like any other, but it is possible to make friends and have fun. The task may seem daunting (I felt the same way), but it is doable! If someone invites you, just say yes! You have nothing to lose! I know this may seem cliché, but the Scottish are very nice, very friendly, and very glad students are here. Do as you did as a freshman on your own campus: talk and get involved—experience your time here in Glasgow!