“Knowing we are all in the same boat makes it that much easier to stay optimistic”

Still living on campus, trying to find routine now that the summer exams are complete, and virtually chatting with family and friends; Rowan, an international student from the US, talks about her reality while in lockdown

My name is Rowan Fitzpatrick, I am an international student from the US getting my B.Sc. in Sport & Exercise Sciences at UL.  When the university was required to shut-down for COVID-19, I had two months left until completion of my second year.  As young and somewhat naïve students, our initial reaction was “hooray! no lectures! early summer!”, but it didn’t take long for the stressful reality of the situation to hit.  Our curriculum assessments would change, our learning would be entirely self-motivated, we would have to go home, and we wouldn’t be able to see our friends for an indefinite period of time. In my circumstance, I was unable to go home at all.

I have been alone in my on-campus accommodation for two months now, and in reflection I believe I owe my positive mental and academic status to the support I’ve received from friends, family, my department faculty, and the International Education Division at UL.  From weekly check-ins from my course lecturers, Zoom calls with friends, and group-chats with other stranded international students, I know that people have my back if I ever need help.  Academically, our lecturers have been immensely understanding in working with students to find assessment solutions that work for everyone, and some have even individually reached out to me over concern of my isolated state.  I found the best goal was to keep to a daily schedule by balancing school and exercise with free-time, but that’s not to say I haven’t had a few dreary days here and there.  When we are struggling to focus on assignments or just having a difficult day, we can pop it into the international chat and receive empathy, motivation, and support within a matter of minutes.  Sometimes we even share baking recipes or Netflix recommendations, so everyone knows it’s okay to take a day off work every once in a while.  I am also incredibly lucky to have our beautiful campus nearly all to myself; a stroll in the fresh air and sunshine is enough to lift anyone’s mood.

Now that our assessments are finished and college is done, boredom and loneliness are bound to increase.  I’ll have six more weeks before I head home to the states, but I know I’m not on my own.  The university is keeping in personal contact with remaining internationals to ensure we are alright, and we are keeping in touch with each other.  Hopefully we will be able to begin a book or jigsaw puzzle exchange, and maybe even have a few 2-metre apart picnics in the near future.  Knowing we are all in the same boat makes it that much easier to stay optimistic.

~Rowan

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