The pandemic has brought a whole new set of challenges for international students coming back to Trinity – with classes going online and the prospect of travelling during these times, many students travelled back to Ireland under unusual circumstances – but others have decided, or were forced, to stay in their home countries and study from afar.
One of these students is Ruia Safir from Bangalore, India. Her decision not to return to Dublin rested on the fact that her parents were worried for her health during the pandemic, yet the ability to cut costs also played a factor in her staying home. She felt that she “does not have the emotional support she needs there.”
“It seems like a minor reason but I truly wouldn’t be able to go without the support I have here till May next year”
“It seems like a minor reason but I truly wouldn’t be able to go without the support I have here till May next year,” Safir said Her decision to stay home comes with plenty of pros and cons as she goes through her English Studies classes. One of her main worries is “calculating the time difference wrong and missing a live class”, especially when the hardship of having to communicate with peers and lecturers through a screen already exists. However, while timing is a substantial worry for Safir, she also feels that she will have more support at home and help from her family in many ways that she wouldn’t receive in Dublin as an international student living in student housing. “I will be able to focus much more on my studies…and the time difference will definitely help with me being able to wake up early!” she said.
To finalize her decision, she had to present her case with all of these reasons to her tutor and receive permission from the head of her school. While this was a relatively easy process and went by smoothly, she still had some concerns coming into this semester.
“When I weighed my learning and personal safety, it was unrealistic for me to travel across the country in this emergency situation with no cure or vaccine secured”
Similarly, Noe Takehara had the same difficult decision to make – either stay in her home country of Japan or come back to Dublin. In the end, her decision to stay in Japan rested on her safety. “When I weighed my learning and personal safety, it was unrealistic for me to travel across the country in this emergency situation with no cure or vaccine secured,” she said. Ultimately, she felt that the risk of travel was too great, especially with the option of taking classes online.
Another factor of difficulty for the upcoming semester is timing of classes. “The time difference will certainly be one drawback. The time difference between Japan and Ireland is 8 hours, so changing my lifestyle to fit in with the lectures and tutorials will be an element of concern for this semester.”
While Takehara worries about the time difference and managing this part of her schedule, she also feels that her study environment at home will work well for her. “It’s crucial to have a proper WiFi environment, but…it is not that difficult to learn at (her) own pace and relax in a place (she’s) used to,” she said. Staying home means not having to worry about meeting with people and worrying about coronavirus as often, and in the case of an infection she has her family and resources to help her stay comfortable.
“I feel that there was not enough information or support for the international students who returned to their countries already even though they have totally different situations of the corona spread”
After coming to the conclusion that she felt much safer at home, Noe did face more difficulties arranging this with Trinity. “Some staff members and professors supported my decision but I finally arrived at this result after continuing to contact several offices many times,” she said. “I feel that there was not enough information or support for the international students who returned to their countries already even though they have totally different situations of the corona spread.” She describes her experience as quite stressful, especially when dealing with the Academic Registry as they would “ring off suddenly during her explanations” for why she needed to do her semester from Japan.
Even through all of the struggles, Takehara believes she made the right decision by staying home to study, and although she misses her friends, Dublin and the college experience terribly, she is happy to have her family and a more familiar place to study and complete her semester.
Needless to say, international students taking the semester from home are expecting a very different college experience from the regular experience of walking through campus and meeting up with other students. Even with this expectation, staying at home for students will hopefully provide comfort and safety during these times.