By Sarah Livingston
As borders are closing around the world due to the COVID-19 pandemic, many international students are making the quick decision to return to their home countries.
Face to face classes at the University of the West of Scotland were suspended on Monday 16 March as a result of the outbreak, leaving many students feeling unsure about the future of their studies.
Some students have received notifications from their countries urging them to return. Vilma Ahosola, an ERASMUS student from Finland studying at UWS, is one of them. The Finnish Government declared a state of emergency on Monday 16 March. She received an email yesterday advising Finnish nationals to return to the country if possible. She says she feels safe here in Scotland and wants to stay in her flat at UWS Halls of Residence.
While the UK Government is currently recommending that the elderly and the immunocompromised self-isolate for 14 days, many international students are self-isolating as a precaution.
A period of self-isolation can cause significant stress and affect mental health. It’s important to find ways to keep busy. Vilma and her flat-mate Eloise Christoffersen, from Denmark, have taken up knitting to pass the time.
The World Health Organization has released tips on how to deal with stress during the outbreak. The UK mental health charity Mind has also published an article with advice for mental health.
Mind recommends the following:
- Keep in touch with people digitally wherever possible
- Keep up a routine and plan how to spend your time
- Try to keep active: for example, dancing to music, going up and down stairs, or seated exercises
- Get sunlight and fresh air, go for walks and keep curtains open
- Find ways to be creative and relax
- Keep your mind occupied with things like reading, puzzles, and films
- Stay updated with current events via credible sources, take caution with social media and be careful not to spread and read misinformation
- If you are struggling with anxiety about the situation, more information is available from the British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy