I reached out to Edinburgh students this week and asked them to tell me how the Covid-19 pandemic is affecting their lives. The following is what I heard from a variety of people.
Some students were upset about having to put their life on hold and go home. I spoke to Rob Bazaral, co-editor in chief of The Student, who said: “On Thursday the 12th I was up to the early hours of the morning hosting a party with good friends that I did not realize would be my last night for a long while with many people who’ve become some of my closest friends in the city. The next day the uni shut and the gravity of it all hit me. I’d have to go back to the US within a week and I spent a somber week having to rapidly pack up my flat and trying to get some good last moments in with my flatmates who’d become some of my best friends during this year.
“I never got to make a proper last edition of The Student as EIC, I never got to see through a lot of my goals here in Edinburgh, it seems increasingly unlikely that there will be internships to do this summer nor the ability to live in NYC as I’ve planned. It did seem like this came right as life was starting to come together. Yet I am fortunate: I have enough mental fortitude at this point to be managing, I’m privileged enough that I don’t have to worry too much about finances during this time, and I have a secured roof over my head. I’ll get through, we all will, it’s just about learning to adjust and taking things one day at a time. ”
Sinéad, an international student from South Africa, has made the difficult decision not to return home for the time being. She had to self-isolate for two weeks after a holiday in Venice in February and shared what that was like: “I found it incredibly taxing on my emotional stability. I felt very lonely and homesick. When I finished with my self-isolation the first day back ‘to normal life’ was very exhausting. Seeing people was just so strange, since I hadn’t spoken to a person face to face, or just been around people for the past 14 days. Now since I’ve had that experience, I’ve made sure to keep reaching out to friends, and video-calling family in order to stay sane.
“I’ve been keeping busy with the projects and assessments that I know need to be worked on/completed, and treating myself by making meals that are traditionally South African, to help cope with not knowing when I will be able to go home.”
Fiona spoke to me about choosing to go home rather than stay in Edinburgh. Even though she is worried about not having access to a dental hospital for treatment she needs, she decided nevertheless leaving the city was best. “I could not face the idea of lockdown in Edinburgh, away from my mother and brother, because my father passed away in the summer of 2018, and it was pretty horrific.”
There are also many students stuck in Edinburgh who are unable to fly home to their families. Alaina, another student, said: “I think, for me, the pandemic makes me feel lost. I was meant to fly back home yesterday, but travel bans came in place and now I can’t leave to any of the countries I’m from.
“It’s disorienting to feel like I don’t fully belong in any of those places or even Edinburgh. Everyone’s going home to their families and I just have to stick it out, hoping the travel bans don’t extend, but there’s so much uncertainty.’
Karuna, a first year student, told me about how difficult it was for her to get home. Her family has lived in Malaysia since she was 11, and she had a flight booked to go home to her parents, but the country closed its borders to non-citizens before she could get there. She has now managed to be reunited with her mum in Bangladesh but they do not know when they will be able to go back to Malaysia. When asked if anything was making her feel more positive about the situation, she said: “Reading and studying with a freedom of wanting to learn, rather than because of the pressure of exams, has been really interesting to experience. I guess we’ve never had that luxury since we started school and maybe this is what university should be like.”
Another first year told me about being separated from her boyfriend who was recalled by his home country: “Having to be apart from him for a 4 month long summer was anxiety-inducing, but for it to be extended to 6 months is heartbreaking.”
Some people also told me what they are doing to maintain morale: Marwan said he was worried about “how long this will last and how it will affect my job, studies and goals”. He did, however, add: “Poetry is cheering me up”.
Naomi told me what she has been doing to stay positive and help others: “I have seen the impact this is having on my local businesses in Stockbridge, so have been sharing a list of businesses that are delivering/takeaway online and in person. I have also set up a website for my friends called surthriveit.com, to try and feel like I am supporting them too.”
A lot of students, particularly those completing one-year Master’s programs, were concerned about the disruption to their education.
Katie, who is completing an MSc Inclusive Education, said: “I was assigned a dissertation supervisor on Tuesday, for my dissertation which is due at the end of August – a supervisor I’ll probably never actually meet!”
She added: “I’m a primary teacher too, so there’s the whole virtual teaching of 11 year olds thing,” (she feels it’s appropriate to add two brain exploding emojis here).
Immy said that: ‘I feel like I got only half of what I paid for. It took me 5 months to apply for the scholarship. I’m an MSc student. I have dreamt of coming here since my bachelor’s degree but something held me back. Now that I could have had my dream come true, everything crashed down in the middle. All of a sudden schools had to shut down. Many of my colleagues and dorm mates left without having time to say goodbye. It’s like having a nightmare.’
On a slightly more positive note, 黄修齐, a first year PhD student, said that “some plans are definitely disrupted, conferences I intended to go to are postponed, and there are some events I wanted to attend but now can’t. Since I haven’t really had any proper rest since last June, I’m really just seeing this quarantine period as an extra holiday where I can stay in and relax.”
Similarly, Matthew, a first year history student, said that “on one hand I’m (happy) that I don’t have exams and only need to do essays. Also, to me this is nothing new given all the strikes. But it is a pain that the end of year one and perhaps early year two is going to be affected by the virus.’
The Student will be continuing to document the effects of the pandemic and how Edinburgh students are coping. Remember; stay safe everyone, and keep others safe too.
Image: dun_deagh via Flickr.com