Masks gone, mental health in: International universities eager to welcome back Indian students

As the world tries to get back to normal after almost two years of fighting the coronavirus pandemicthe education sector also hopes not only to make up for lost time, but also to make the experience safer and friendlier.

When the pandemic hit the world, educational institutions around the world were closed for physical classes and students were stuck with online learning. While some enjoyed getting extra hours of sleep instead of commuting across campus, others missed out on that essential and unique campus experience.

The students who missed out on the campus experience the most were those who hoped to be able to travel abroad for a semester or course abroad. However, now that several countries are relaxing travel restrictions imposed due to COVID-19universities are preparing to welcome their international students.

indianexpress.com I talked to some universities abroad to find out about the plans of educational institutions in different countries to welcome Indian students.

no quarantine

Most universities based in the United Kingdom (UK) and Northern Ireland, such as the University of Manchester (UoM) or the University of Sussex, now welcome Indian students without the condition that they have to quarantine at home. arrival.

In terms of vaccination, while most universities around the world are currently following their government guidelines, the authorities are organizing all possible measures to help students through the process. For example, at the University of Sussex, to help students check their vaccination status and obtain their NHS COVID Pass, officials have organized Vaccination Verification Clinics during term time.

Countries like the UK, Israel and some other European nations have also allowed their citizens in less crowded public spaces without a mask. Although the use of face masks in crowded places is recommended, there is no rule or penalty against it. This helps students get a pre-Covid experience in many countries that host Indian students.

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Focus on mental health

Some universities are now going an extra step to ensure students feel welcome, safe and emotionally strong as they move to a foreign country in the midst of a global pandemic. The University of Manchester has organized peer support and fellowship programmes, including ‘Check-In and Chat’ group support video calls, led by UoM staff, for students to discuss how they are feeling, answer any queries and Share experiences with your peers. .

Educational institutions in Israel, which is an upcoming destination for Indian students interested in medicine and science-related studies, are also focusing on offering more support to Indian students in terms of mental well-being. Most higher education institutions have support systems that can guide students in this matter.

change in demand

Many universities and educational advisers have observed that Indian students are more interested in opting for on-campus teaching than online classes. “Indian students prefer a full campus experience, they like the face-to-face aspect of our teaching and they want to spend physical time in our labs and libraries,” he said. Sandeep Sharma, RIO – South Asia, University of Essex. “In addition, the postgraduate route now offered by the UK government is a key motivation for Indian students to apply to our courses and want to stay and work in the UK after their course. This is not available for remote/online learning programs.”

The same claim was confirmed by an overseas educational advisory firm, Yocket. “There has been no decrease in demand. In the fall of 2020, we saw very little mobility due to trip closures, but as soon as they opened, students were ready to start their course. Demand in 2021 was exceptionally high due to pent-up demand and rising interest. We have seen a multiple increase in queries on our platform,” said Sumeet Jain, founder of Yocket.

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One reason behind this has also been the flexible approach taken by many of the international universities. “Since the pandemic, many foreign universities have become flexible regarding the exams that international students must take for admission. For example, most US universities have waived the SAT score requirement to apply for admission for upcoming admissions. Many universities around the world have also started accepting online English test scores (Duolingo or TOEFL home edition) instead of a standardized English test,” says Parul Mittal, Director of International Placewell Consultants Pvt Ltd.

Who got up, who sank

According to the consultants, countries such as the UK, the US, Switzerland, Israel, Canada and a few more saw increased demand in 2021 as these countries were easily accessible and tried to relax guidelines related to Covid-19 as much as they could. Although students hoping to travel to Canada had a hard time getting direct flights, the rest of the admission and quarantine process made it a popular choice for Indian students.

However, countries like New Zealand and Australia saw a drop in demand due to border closures amid the pandemic. New Zealand and Australia used to be popular choices for Indian students, especially those planning to pursue management courses. However, demand fell massively during the pandemic.

“Countries like Australia, Singapore and New Zealand have witnessed a massive decline in student numbers. This is mainly due to the fact that all these countries had closed their borders for international students”, says Parul Mittal.

“Students had been given the option of online studies, but most students are not interested in this as other countries like the UK were open and welcoming to international students. In March 2021, Australia saw a 99% decrease in the number of international students. Before the Covid pandemic, Australia had a 20 per cent share of Indian student demand. However, as of October 2021, it has plummeted to 9 percent,” she added.

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However, now that Australia is reopening its borders, students and counselors are hoping to return to Australian universities. “I had planned to join the University of Sydney in 2020. I applied but by the time I got my confirmation the pandemic had hit us so I had to abandon my plans. While the university was kind enough to allow me to reapply, I wasn’t sure because I only want to attend classes on campus. Now with the reopening of the borders, I can finally live my dream,” says Gurugram resident Pooja Gupta*.

*Name changed upon request

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