How international students can navigate their options during and after this COVID crisis [2020]

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The COVID-19 crisis situation has affected all of us somehow in some way. As a result international students studying at foreign universities face difficulties in these rough times. This article will be of help to guide those students in these times. If you are a student who is seeking to enroll in a foreign university then make sure to check this article.

Since the pandemic is still lingering around us navigating our options through these days is crucial. Colleges and universities around the globe have closed and moved classes online to slow the spread of COVID-19.In the first part of this article, we will look onto some common challenges faced by international students, then we will look onto options international students have during this pandemic and the next section we will look into what to do after this pandemic situation.

There may be challenges both mentally as well as physically for students.

  • Some may face financial problems. It may be a challenge for them to find money and financial support these days. So students may need financial assistance during these hard times.
  • Doing academic work using online learning materials and applications may be a challenge for individuals who are not technically proficient.
  • Depression/Home sickness or related situations may arise for students.
  • Finding accommodation and food during the pandemic can be another challenge.
  • Accessing health care is one of the many challenges international students face amid the COVID-19 pandemic
  • Students confused by Travel Restrictions

To overcome the challenges mentioned above students may need to navigate their options smartly. Let’s look into what kind of guidelines students living abroad should undertake to navigate their way during these times.

Always follow health guidelines

Following health guidelines is very crucial. Staying healthy is needed to do any task so respecting and following the health guidelines issued by the respected government will help for disease control and prevention of the virus. The following steps can be taken to stay protected and prevention from further spread of the virus.

  • Washing your hands regularly with soap and water for at least 20 seconds.
  • Using an alcohol-based hand sanitizer containing at least 60% alcohol
  • Cough and sneeze into a tissue or the bend of your arm
  • Avoid touching your face with unwashed hands
  • Wearing a face shield/mask.
  • Do not travel if you are sick.
  • Keeping a 1.50 meter social distancing from each other
  • dispose of used tissues in a lined waste container and then wash your hands

The currently you live in may impose strict rules to further prevent this outbreak, such as wearing masks in public places, keeping distance, etc. So obeying them also is needed from the general public.

Study online (Distance Learning)

Every country has switched to online learning and continuing their studies online. Lecturers and teachers undertake their teaching remotely and on digital platforms. Research suggests that learning online has been shown to increase retention of information in students/individuals and to be effective this is mostly due to the students being able to learn and process information much faster ; e-learning also takes up 40-60% less time to learn than in a traditional classroom setting because students can learn at their own pace, going back and re-reading, skipping, or fast forwarding through concepts as they choose, suggesting the changes coronavirus have caused might be here to stay for good. Since you have more time in your hands now you can try to sharpen or enhance your portfolio by taking extra courses online from the comfort of your own home and pace. Following some extra courses will definitely help add some value to your portfolio and increase your chance of landing a job after your graduation for sure.

The challenges of online learning

There are, however, challenges to overcome. Some students without a reliable source of internet connection and/or technology may struggle to participate in online learning.

The World Bank is actively working with ministries of education in dozens of countries in support of their efforts to utilize educational technologies of all sorts to provide remote/distance learning opportunities for students while teaching centers are closed as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic and is in active dialogue with dozens more. A rise in usage of tools such as language appsvirtual tutoringvideo conferencing tools, or online learning software has been seen during these times.

Countries like Canada are taking special steps to make sure this academic learning are happening these times. The government is rolling out a series of measures aimed at making it easier for international students who will be beginning their fall semesters to arrange online courses from Canadian schools, while COVID-19 restrictions remain in place.

Acquire new skills

This is a great time to acquire some new skills as you will be having time in your hands. Many online opportunities are unfolding day by day. Learning a new skill has never been easier in 2020. Learning online comes in many forms such as watching tutorials on YouTube (visual learning) reading a blog post (text format) and listening to a podcast (audio format). Students can choose what format is most suitable for them to process that information. Improving your skillset can certainly help advance and excel in your professional career.  Also land new job opportunities and add qualifications to your CV.

Spending your time wisely in quarantine to your advantage is a great way to get ahead of the game. Websites such as Coursera, Udemy and Skillshare offer part time online learning opportunities and courses for students to acquire new skills. The training courses offered on these platforms will be a positive highlight for your resume as well as your personal development. For instance, if you are a software developer and attend an online course at Udemy to learn a new skill in software engineering, showing these in your resume will be a distinction from other professionals and it communicates that you are equipped with the knowledge to take on the applied role. Google is also helping with learning digital marketing skills from their academy “Google Digital Garage” as wells as other machine learning to students.

What you choose to do will vary from one person to another however you should focus on building an impressive CV and portfolio. This might be through volunteering or developing mandatory skills such in topics such as Microsoft Excel or SEO. Microsoft office software is used widely in homes, schools & offices to manage and present information. For anyone with an office-based job, Microsoft Office is a mandatory required skill… When it comes to SEO Search engine optimization specialist examines and implements changes to websites so that it can be found on search engines. This means maximizing the traffic to a site by improving website page rankings on search engines.

This will show potential employers that you’ve done something constructive with your time and has also the combination of right knowledge and skillset to be selected for the job you wish to apply.

Part time and temporary work

Applying for part time or temporary work may also help you to gain some income and even to have a social connection during these times. Where ever you are in the world you can use the following platforms to navigate your career.

  • LinkedIn – LinkedIn a great place to look for job opportunities. When recruiters search for your name in Google, your LinkedIn profile is what will appear first. 
  • Recruitment agencies – These agencies in your country where you currently studying will help you to find and land a job.
  • Facebook job market feature – This feature helps you to find and land on jobs near you. Have features like finding jobs in specific radius base area.

If you get a chance in a job since most companies are recruiting through the online interviews you will be able to prepare for those with less stress. Before the pandemic, many larger companies were either already beginning to make the switch or considering it of conducting online interviews. Now it’s crucial that companies have a strong online presence when it comes to recruitment, as many students no longer have the option to attend an in-person interview so it is essential that your online profile looks complete and up to date with your qualifications and experiences to land the job.

You can also try freelancing sites to get paid these days. Sites like Freelancer, Upwork, Fiver may help you to get yourself going in these tough times. It will help to relieve your financial needs.

Communicating is the key

Communicating and staying connected with your fellow colleagues is necessary in these times. They will also help you to navigate these times and you can also help them. If campus dorms allow students to stay together in these times students can utilize them however most unlikely since social distancing must be maintained throughout.

Even though you are not able to communicate or visit each other physically a social media can also be a tool to be used to connect with each other. It will make you realize how important personal relationships are. Being mentally unbalanced must be avoided and to overcome that challenge communicating among your friends and family will be beneficial for you.

Request for help from the campus

Campus around the world are facilitating students in these hard times.

Many universities are following “best practices” in their environment to ensure that the campus is safe. They remain vigilant of any reports both nationally and locally as well as keeping the University informed of the updates from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Universities aspire to be an inclusive, respectful, and healthy environment for students and all members of the local community. The universities will provide regular updates related to the coronavirus to students and the local community around them as new information becomes available from the of Public of Health authorities. Some universities are offering free meals during these times.

For many international students, uncertainty around accommodations and anxieties about finances go hand in hand. In addition to making sure that international students who are currently having a safe place to stay, many institutions are helping them with unexpected expenses, whether due to sudden relocation from a dorm to an off-campus apartment, for example, or other financial fallout. Even you are getting waver from campuses you can always talk with them about your difficulties.

Since the pandemic can have adverse consequences for international students’ mental health, it has been recommended that universities continue to provide evidence-based online counseling services. Most campuses have risen to this challenge by moving their counseling services online and providing free consultations by email, phone, or video calls.

So there is no need of panicking and flying away for your home country. Think this period of time as a opportunity and get the best out of it while distance learning.

What’s next after COVID crisis?

The date which the pandemic will be over cannot be said exactly but you can prepare for that situation as an international student. You may have to face several challenges these days. But the above steps may help you to get more opportunities as well as to overcome such challenges.

The pandemic has greatly disrupted higher education, and it will take some time before the traditional way of life returns. Even after restrictions are lifted, the impact of a pending global recession surely will depress supply even more.

There are a number of possible futures, it all dependent on how governments and society respond to the coronavirus and its economic aftermath. Hopefully we will use this crisis to rebuild, produce something better and more humane. Countries that flattened the curve quickly might re-open sooner than others. Countries that suffered some reputational damage based on their responses might find foreign nationals less eager to visit. For a time, at least, student choices will be informed by such considerations. So playing your cards right and improving your skills at present is the greatest strategy for now.

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