In the present time, the word ‘uncertainty’ has dominated the minds of prospective as well as current international students. The questions that have hovered around their minds are what will be the recruiting procedure and the visa processing in coming times? Also, what kind of learning system they will be offered and finally when will they be able to land at their study destination.
Several such questions related to studying abroad has been comprehensively talked upon within a panel that comprised of agencies and educators of USA, Canada and Britain and here are some valuable insights from the discussion –
As far as USA is concerned, the expert indicates that most students are considering deferment for the upcoming fall semester. The primary reason is that students wouldn’t be able to get the visas in immediate future. Another reason is that COVID-19 situation in USA is not moving in a good direction, therefore, parents are saying that this fall is definitely not on the table. However, the silver lining in the cloudy times is that there has been a significant increase in the number of students who are considering USA as a study destination in spring / next fall as compared to the last year. Therefore, students can be hopeful for the USA in future.
The Universities and agencies are doing their part by communicating substantially with the students. Their aim is to be thoughtful and empathizing towards the students and their parents by increasing the volume of their communication – that are actually meaningful rather than misguiding.
As far as health and safety measures are concerned, USA’s prime focus is not upon the future students as it is not expecting them to come in immediate future, but the students including the international students who are already staying within the campuses. The major steps taken in this direction are –
- Dormitories are occupied up to 50 to 55 percent of their capacity.
- Share accommodations have so far turned into private accommodations to practice social distancing.
- There is more frequent cleaning and extensive staff is recruited to take care of the needs of the students.
- A dedicated contact tracing team has been constituted to look after the possible contraction of the disease due to any contact with the infected person.
With the gradual opening of visa application centers in various countries, Canada is hopeful that the upcoming fall semester may witness physical presence of the international students. However, online classes is definitely going to be the preferred mode of learning in the beginning of the semester. There have been relaxations in the admission process such as IELTS is not a mandate and separate tests are considered in some Universities.
The stress level among the students and their guardian is high at this time, suggested the education agency representative and to alleviate the stress, Institutes are sending systematic mails to the concerned people. They are trying to be as close to the students as possible to answer their questions, whatever they are. Efforts are being made to remain active on all social platforms to stay connected. There has been a major shift from the structured processes and the system has changed to a new dimension and the onus is upon the educators to inform the students and make them comfortable with the new system.
Considering the future course of action for the international students –
- Canada is advising students buy premium medical insurance that may be needed in the case of the unfortunate situation.
- With this plan, the COVID-19 related hospitalization will not be an extra burden upon the student. This is just a precautionary advice for the incoming students.
- A General Health and Safety Guideline will be provided to each and every student so that they understand Canada’s rules to combat COVID-19. For example, people are expected to maintain a 6-feet gap among themselves in public spaces as compared to the 3-feet gap in many countries.
- Engagements shall be conducted with the students and free masks and sanitary packages will be distributed among them.
While many students dream to study in UK, the pandemic has jeopardized their plans for now. There has been an economic shift in the people’s lives and that has indeed impacted the study abroad plans for the students. Some of the parents find it difficult to manage the tuition fee and accommodation expenses of studying abroad as of now. The Universities in UK have largely adopted the concept of blended learning which is a mix of online and on-campus studying pertaining to the nature of the course of the students.
More than 90% of the Universities have already communicated to their students individually about their processes and what is the immediate plan for them. The focus is to establish a feeling of security amongst the students and this will be achieved through robust and timely communication with the concerned parties.
The steps that UK Institutes have taken to ensure the health and well-being of the international students are –
- The ‘welcome pack’ that is being handed over to students when they commence their studies in UK will be modified. Sanitizer, mask and other essential protective items shall be the new addition to this pack.
- No guests will be allowed to come and visit the students in near future, which was allowed earlier. This is done to minimize the possibility of spread of the disease.
- There will be frequent temperature check-ups to keep a tab on the health of all the students.
While the panelists spoke of their respective countries, they were hopeful of the successful transition to the new normal. They also pointed out that the pandemic has done some good things like there is increased communication among the Universities and the agencies and they are learning from each other. There was a consensus that the pandemic has definitely brought people together. They also suggested that once the pandemic restrictions are eased, there will be unprecedented demand for international education among the students and the industry will witness its rise again.
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