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Diary of an international student in lockdown

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Published on 02 December 2020

Georgios Vasilakis
Georgios Vasilakis

Georgios Vasilakis is originally from Greece but moved to the North East in September to study Web and Mobile Development at the University of Sunderland.

The 19-year-old student has been spending lockdown in the city and has kept a diary of student life thousands of miles from home.


Week one:

"So, here we go again. I’m settling into lockdown and I’m keeping well.

I have my face-to-face lectures with all the necessary social distancing measures in place, so that’s working out well.

The University is also providing us with a fantastic Wellbeing team which offers us free professional counselling which we’re welcome to use any time, which is good to know.

Christmas seems to be approaching fast and we’ve now received an email from the Vice-Chancellor and Chief Executive of the University, Sir David Bell, saying that we can go back to our home countries for Christmas.

I don't think that I will go though, I feel safer here in Sunderland, knowing that the University is here for me to provide me with help and services if I need.

If during this time I feel alone or I need any support, I know it’s there and available to me.”


Week two:


“We’re all stuck indoors so I’ve decided to learn a new programming language. 

When lockdown began, I kind of made a plan that I was going to focus on my hobbies. I wanted to take as much time as I could to do something productive.

Apart from my online lectures and some in-person classes I’ve been attending, I would say that my down-time in lockdown has actually been pretty busy.

I’ve been working part-time in the University’s Gateway which has given me the chance to meet new people and stay in contact with others. So I feel like I'm not as lonely as I would be if I was just stuck at home bored.

For me, boredom is a sign that things are comfortable and easy. It's time to challenge yourself. I see boredom as an opportunity to realign my goals, learn something new, or change my life path.

For me, trying out new things is an excellent way to help you learn and grow. Push yourself out of your comfort zone and try something different.

Apart from that, I've been running every day or working out at home. I've also been going for quarantine walks with my housemates.

And that’s one last thing I would say to other international students – go out.

You need to go outside every day either for a run, to shop or even just a walk. Don't stay locked in your room the whole day and try to spend some time with your housemates. 

I think it's essential to go outside and keep the mood upbeat.”


Week three:


We have been in lockdown now for three whole weeks. Which is not that much, and I feel it has gone fast.

Up until now my focus is to continue attending online my lectures and prepare for my upcoming assignments in January.

I will say again that this lockdown found me busy but, it’s time to figure out how I can get through the rest of the lockdown in the best way possible.

It is crazy to think that we are living in a time like this. Not to mention the most important factor of all: constantly missing food from home. Although I am practically addicted to Jaffa Cakes.

During week three, all decisions are now being made with total acceptance of the situation.

In general, the progress from week one to week three lays in the quarantine orders being followed no longer out of fear but from a complete understanding of its necessity.

From wearing masks, keeping two-metre distance out of obligation and choosing only one household member whose turn it is to do the grocery shopping.

Planning my day is helping me feel grounded and you should do the same if you're feeling uncertain about the future. Try to prioritize eating well, getting plenty of sleep and exercising – wrapping up warm for a short walk outside at lunchtime can be a great place to start.

One thing I’ve found myself doing a lot more than usual are pub quizzes. And by this, I mean doing a quiz on a Zoom/Skype call with friends or family and having a drink.

There are infinite resources online to create your own quiz and test it on your friends. Through video calls, we can stay connected to those we would usually see on a regular basis.

It is important to maintain this feeling of social gatherings in times like this. Everyone is in the same position so it’s hard not to feel unity and connections when interacting with your loved ones.

The university appreciates that this is a troubling time for students.

Students are still able to access the university’s various support services including the Wellbeing Team, the Students Union Team and the Gateway either electronically or by telephone.


Out of lockdown

We made it - and I cannot wait to get a haircut.
I feel that I did a lot of things during the lockdown. I planned my life and lessons better; I used my time more efficiently, and I managed to learn a new programming language.
The studies were structured much better than I expected. I do not really see a difference between the online and offline structures; thus, there is a different feeling when doing the lectures online.
Group work is done on separate channels, we have allocated timeslots for those discussions. When the time is over, we then join the general channel to continue the class.
From my point of view, the University has done a fantastic job switching to online learning, and it will continue to do it until things become better. If I'm not mistaken, this was done within just a few days.
The fact we must stay home affects everyone, not just me. We all need to meet up with friends, laugh and share with them, I find it healthy. But since it is done for our safety, we have no other option than to sit inside and listen to every rule that has been implemented. Of course, it is not something that we planned, it just happened, and we need to accept it.
I follow a strict plan according to my timetable. I can suggest others establishing a schedule in Excel and sticking to it as closely as possible. It is essential to start early in the morning around 7am.
Also, to include personal activities, such as sports, groceries, hobbies.
A unique skill, which is exceptionally crucial, I would say, is discipline. Discipline to stick to the timetable and not lose yourself in unproductive activities, such as TV, YouTube and social media.
I think this pandemic will totally transform education. Most of the things we thought impossible have now proven to be possible. Who would have thought we could have all these classes online?
Hopefully, in the future, when a student cannot attend a class, write an exam, or present his/her thesis, we will give them an equal opportunity to do so, using what we have learnt in the time of this pandemic.
Going forward, I see a rise in online education that can increase efficiency and expand outreach.


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