Atharv Agrawal is from Mumbai, India. He is a student at the University of Toronto in the Munk One program, a special cohort of 25 students from all over the world, including Singapore, Malaysia, Peru, Senegal and the United Arab Emirates. Atharv is studying economics, data analytics, and peace, conflict and justice studies.
Being on the cusp of a new university term, especially the summer term, is a delicious, nervy business. For some students, there is excitement about what lies ahead – new ideas to encounter, people to come back to, unmet challenges to meet. Alongside, there is the inevitable trepidation: the unknown quantities of exams, fears of under-performance, self-doubt.
The coronavirus outbreak has been a wake-up call for many countries on how they deliver their education. And it has presented particular challenges for most sub-Saharan African countries where higher education has long operated under the traditional classroom model, owing to limited online resources.
So far a small number of privately run universities have tried to use virtual delivery modes. But most universities are public institutions with shoestring budgets – mostly from government funding and a little revenue from a few Income Generating Units (IGUs).
I certainly did not expect to end my year abroad crying in Newark Airport wearing latex gloves and a surgical mask, trying to avoid human contact by staying at least two metres away from other passengers (which is surprisingly difficult when you’re on a plane).
This felt so wrong. I was meant to be in America for at least another two months, studying and travelling with friends. Instead coronavirus has come along and ruined everything. It cut my year abroad short and I am beyond devastated.
The world feels like a scary and uncertain place right now, and for many it is having a negative impact on their mental health. For those students with pre-existing mental health conditions, they could be exacerbated, while some may be experiencing new feelings of anxiety or stress they may not have felt before.
Here are some tips to help you to manage those feelings.
1. Limit the amount of news you consume
At Stellenbosch University there is a buzzword used by those responsible for welcoming first-year students: “culture shock”. Many students will also tell you that this phrase accurately describes their experience when first coming to Stellenbosch.
As an international student applying to an English-speaking university you will have to prove that you have a good grasp of the English language. In most cases this can be done through taking an exam called the Academic IELTS, which tests the strength of your English listening, speaking, reading and writing skills.
It might seem like a lot to take on, but having this under your belt will not only consolidate your English-speaking skills (which will be a great help when you are at university) but will open doors to which country you can study in.