Britain: Living with coronavirus

Terms of isolation. Madhuri Ramesh, an Indian student studying in London, on how the pandemic has disrupted her life

The World Today Published 1 May 2020 Updated 29 March 2021 2 minute READ

Madhuri Ramesh

Student and Blogger, Freelance

Students travel abroad with a dream, a passion and a hope to build a better future for themselves. For anyone, living and studying abroad away from their home countries becomes a challenge in itself. However, the coronavirus pandemic has made it 10 times more challenging.

With the entire world going into lockdown, online sessions have become the primary mode of learning. The concept of online learning has never really appealed to me. As a student of international journalism at City, University of London. The pandemic has prevented me from making the most of all the resources my university has to offer

Missing out on studio sessions has been the biggest disappointment. On any other normal day, I would be out on the streets of London with my camera, tripod and recording equipment shooting videos and conducting interviews and vox-pops. Without access to the equipment, we are reduced to recording videos on smartphones. Although these now come with a great camera quality, similar to a digital SLR camera, the experience is never quite the same. Working on video assignments from home has turned out to be much harder than I imagined.

Although the university has made arrangements to access the server remotely, laptop compatibility and storage issues have made it impossible for me to log on. The pandemic’s unpredictability has also prevented the university from saying when normality might return. As of now, the summer term is entirely remote. Looking on the bright side, I have saved a considerable amount of money and time by not commuting.

During those glorious pre-pandemic months, I dreamed of working part-time during my spring break and spending my summer months travelling around Britain and across Europe. Sadly the reality is that travel restrictions within London mean I can’t even go food shopping at my favourite Indian grocery.

One of the biggest impacts of the outbreak is the lack of job opportunities for young people. Finding part-time work has now become impossible and full-time employment seems far from reach as the job market crumbles.

Sending and receiving parcels has also become practically impossible, with them being rejected, delayed or halted midway through delivery. I was disappointed that the parcel my parents tried sending from India last month was rejected by India Post .

Disruption to flights is also causing problems. Students who flew to their home country for the spring vacation now can’t return despite all their belongings still being here.

Since arriving in Britain, I have always found everyone warm and accepting. Social integration has never been a problem. But social distancing rules and the fears about the virus mean I don’t really get a chance to meet or talk to many locals.

I have heard stories of landlords who have pressured international students to continue paying rent despite them having had to move back home and were no longer living there. However, I hope that these barriers are temporary and things will go back to normal once lockdown ends.

The pandemic has certainly made life difficult for international students but, on the positive side, I realize the quarantine has helped me grow closer to nature. Taking a stroll through the Walthamstow Wetlands is now part of my daily routine and long canal walks through the Lee Valley help me escape the chaos in the world today.