Graduation! This is something every student looks forward to from the day they start the degree! It isn’t just about the certificate and the qualification, but it is about celebrating your achievements, celebrations with the friends that became family, making lifelong memories in the form of pictures, and most importantly – throwing your cap in the air! Being an international student, I was very excited for my family to come over for my graduation celebration and they were equally excited to make their trip here just to know it was not happening this year. Many universities have cancelled their graduation ceremonies and some have organised virtual celebrations, but I am glad Swansea University is still hoping to have a graduation ceremony for every student who was to graduate this year, be it this year or the next and I am very excited for that time to come! Something very unique that Swansea University is designing for its graduates year is a digital year book to keep as a memento! This is a lovely idea and amazing initiative from the university.
The abrupt end to university life has crippled the feelings of achievement, celebrations, and a chance to say goodbyes to the friends we made at university, especially international students. Besides the attachment to student life, when looking ahead the anxiety of final year exams and projects was doubled upon with anxiety for career pathways and whether us graduates, will be able to get a job or not.
I study Osteopathy at Swansea University, and being an international student already made it difficult to apply for a job in a market where most are self-employed. This pandemic not only increased the anxiety for international students to get a job, but also to attain financial stability. You remain clueless on whether pursuing a career in your chosen path will be possible, or you would have to find another job for the time being. Some feel emotionally numb due to the anxiety and uneasiness of what the future holds from this pandemic. I would say, be optimistic and open minded! Do not give up and continue to drive yourself in the direction you see best.
Adjusting to the new norm…
I was unable to fly back home to Kenya during this time and have had to stay in the UK whilst I completed the remainder of my final year. At the beginning it was a very difficult period, with a lot of uncertainty, being away from family and adjusting to the new norm. But I can definitely say my tutors and lecturers made this a lot simpler by providing their support in any way they could. It was much easier after I accepted the fact that I was not alone in this and you had to adapt to it. As an extrovert, keeping in touch with my family and friends virtually over Zoom calls made it much nicer, it made it feel like they were right next to me, and despite the physical distance we could resonate on many levels together!
As they say, “you value it when you lose it”, the start was quite difficult, but as time passed by, I have become much more used to this type of life, as much as I do miss going to clinic and treating patients as part of my placement. Not everything around me is negative. It’s all about your perspective. Seeing communities come together to help one another shows that there is light at the end of the tunnel, and society will overcome it. Constantly seeing how the University was trying to help out in different ways made me feel proud to be a part of Swansea University. Friends with whom I had begun distancing started calling, thus it was easier to hang out virtually than make time when we were here in person. I could spend more time cooking different meals – I can proudly say I have cooked more varieties of foods in the past three months than I have in the past four years at Uni.
Making the most of yourself
This has also encouraged people to take time out for themselves and focus on their physical and mental wellbeing. You can adjust your daily routines but certainly not your satisfaction and happiness levels therefore you need to pay more attention to that. I finally got the time to work on some art pieces, scrapbooks, and just random things I enjoy doing that I wouldn’t have otherwise. I have got more time to slot in 30 minutes work out session and go for a walk by the beach, which I always intended to do but never had the time. These are the small things that can substitute your hangouts, parties and socials for the time being.
To sum it up, it is not all horrible! It is definitely a new kind of norm, but there is positivity out of it! I could not be happier that I am in Swansea at this time – I mean who does not fancy the warm golden sand running between your toes with the gentle breeze at the beach. I am even more glad that I am a part of Swansea University, with great support from all staff members, be it the Student’s Union, your college, or your departmental staff! I am happy to have made some really good friendships and hopefully we can all reunite someday to celebrate our achievements!
The one thing I have learnt is to not worry and stress about the future because it is not something you or I can control. No one knows what is to come in the next few months or even days, so the best thing to do is make the most of this current time. Use this time to focus on yourself, your family, and friends, finding a new hobby, advancing your current skills and knowledge, do something you have always wanted to do, invest in your community, make a gesture of good faith! Look at the good things out of this rather than focusing on the negatives that form a mental burden in your head and affect your daily life!
Remember! Every day is one day closer to the end!
Tips for students coming to University during the covid-19 impact
I can only imagine how stressful this period must be for those of you planning to come study at Universities. The process of applying to a university and finally coming to study away from home can be daunting in itself, and during these times, it must be even more stressful! With all the uncertainties and question marks to a lot the things may even make some of you want to reconsider. This is why I have put together some tips that I think might be helpful for you
Be optimistic! Remember, you are not the only one in this situation. Every student starting university this year will be in the same situation along with all those who will be coming back to complete their studies. Instead of focusing on the negatives, you can find ways to make the most of your academic year. There are places you can go explore whilst maintaining distances, or perfect your cooking skills so that you do not end up eating pasta for the rest of the year or you could learn a new language (Welsh maybe?)
Universities are trying their best to support the students in any way possible, so do not be scared to ask for help, or to reach out to someone if you are experiencing any difficulties. Even if you are not able to be on campus physically, there are online services set up by the university be if for mental health support or simple library support. If I were you, I would make good use of it.
If you are worried about accommodation, then I would tell you to take a deep breath and just relax a little. University accommodation is still available, and there will be other private student accommodations available. Have a look at pictures, video tours of the places you would like to live and start planning! If you are international, you might find it more comfortable living in student accommodation provided by the university, especially if you have never been to the area before.
Being an international student, may make some of you feel slightly homesick, and trust me it is very normal. I would say make sure you keep in touch with family and friends from back home, if you know anyone coming to the same university as yours try and speak to each other beforehand. It does make a difference knowing someone, however when I came to university, I did not know anyone from Kenya and here I am, I have some of the greatest friendships that I will always treasure. Try and join Facebook groups for the university, international students’ groups and even societies that interest you. This will help you make friends with people with similar interests, or even people from the same area as you.
When you get to university, some may find it more comfortable just being in their room, but I would suggest you try and get outside, get some fresh air!
It will be an exhilarating experience, especially in today's technologically advanced world, so make the most of it. It is normal to feel scared with these uncertain times, but do not let it stop you from achieving your dreams.
I wish you all the best in your future endeavours!