Nothing and no one was prepared for the onslaught of the COVID-19 pandemic, which brought the world to its knees for the greater part of 2020. Countries imposed lockdowns, community quarantines, and physical distancing policies, which, in turn, forced the closure of businesses.
Depending on the nature of their business, funds, and scale of operations, some companies were able to shift their operations online. But on the whole, many people lost their jobs, including international students working part-time in their host countries.
International students are a diverse yet important subculture facing unique challenges brought on by the pandemic. Even with the threat of COVID-19 and the uncertainties it has brought, some international students opted to stay in their host countries.
Others who left or were in their home countries during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic have opted to take the online route. Some students who want to go back are faced with additional problems concerning visa application and related procedures.
Now that a new UK variant of the SARS-CoV-2 virus has infected a couple of hundred people in different countries, new lockdowns are being imposed anew in some places. But how do these developments in 2021 impact the lives of international students?
Top countries hosting international students
A lot of countries around the world play host to international students looking to acquire high-quality education and training while immersed in a different culture. Some top countries preferred by international students include the US, UK, Australia, Canada, Switzerland, and France.
But will things be back to business as usual for international students in these places?
1. United States of America
Fall semester enrollments last year involving international students fell by 16 percent. This reduction is primarily due to what may be viewed as the previous administration’s failure to contain the spread of COVID-19 as well as seemingly hostile policies targeting foreigners.
The new leadership under President Joe Biden is now under pressure to ease restrictions on foreign travel to encourage international students who have left to come back.
Some universities like the University of Pennsylvania are discouraging foreign students from leaving the US at this time as there is a lot of uncertainty concerning travel in relation to COVID. Online learning options also continue to be available to enrolled international students staying in or out of the country.
So far, policies concerning the admission of international college students to the US haven’t changed, save for general health and travel protocols that affect all incoming passengers from outside the country.
2. United Kingdom
International students in the United Kingdom who have been unable to return home have access to funding sources, however limited. Most learning is now taking place online, although students outside of the UK still struggle with accessing components of their learning that cannot be had online, such as laboratory work.
Colleges and universities continue to innovate and offer more flexible arrangements to support students who are in their home countries or different time zones. In general, however, the conditions of admission remain the same for incoming international students.
In Australia where COVID-19 has been more efficiently contained, the same general guidelines for the admission of international college students remain. However, there are additional health preconditions, as well as education preconditions, that are adapted to COVID-safe learning.
International students who wish to gain admittance into Canada to continue their studies need to be prepared for extended wait times as delays are inevitable due to COVID-19 and changes in processing applications.
If traveling to Canada as an international student, be sure to prepare a 14-day quarantine plan. This is aside from observing the usual travel restrictions and health protocols that apply to everyone coming from overseas, students or not.
Switzerland has specific COVID-19 protocols in place, including airport arrivals, with a note stating that restrictions in certain cantons may be tighter.
However, the admission process and requirements for international students interested in applying here have changed little. So, as long as a student meets the educational and financial criteria and passes all the steps, they should be able to study in the country even with COVID-19.
Despite recent outbreaks of COVID-19 in France, school continues, although most schoolwork is done digitally, save for practical work. International students who satisfy or comply with health requirements are authorized to travel to France.
So, as long as an applicant meets the basic requirements for international students in France and adheres to COVID safety travel guidelines, there’s no reason for anyone not to be able to study in the country.
International studies amid COVID-19
There’s no way of telling how long the global pandemic will be here for and how long people need to continue working around COVID-19. However, what this pandemic has taught everyone is the need for agility and innovation.
So far, despite the many challenges the pandemic has brought upon everyone, including the global education sector, it appears that these institutions have proven resilient.
As most colleges and universities have shown a lot of flexibility in terms of academic arrangements for foreign students, there’s no reason for international students to put their educational aspirations on hold completely.
Oli Kang is a working mum who has a passion for teaching and all things educational. With a background in marketing, Oli manages the digital channels and content at Courses AU.