Words by Ritika Srivatsan, Staff Writer

The new academic session beginning in September 2021 was heavily marketed for and highly awaited, as it brought with it the return of normalcy post-COVID-19. The University of Sussex intended for all students to attend lectures and seminars in person whilst adhering to coronavirus protocols such as wearing facemasks. However, delays in visas, unrecognised vaccine programs, and the United Kingdom’s traffic signal system (rules to change from October 4th) for travel have left many international students still waiting to begin their journey at university long after Welcome Week has drawn to a close. 

“I was sad because I missed some welcome events, could not meet my course lecturers before class, and missed parties where I could have met new people. So I felt very bad,” says Madiha Chaldikar, a first-year student from Bangladesh. Despite UK Visas and Immigration stating that her visa would take 15 days, she received it after more than one month. Furthermore, since she arrived in the UK from a red list country, she is undergoing a mandatory 10-day quarantine at a Government approved hotel. “My family is not here with me and England is very far from Bangladesh but the university helped me a lot. They are also paying for the hotel quarantine, which is great” she added. 

The UK has been subject to controversy for only recognising vaccines manufactured and available in select countries, largely ignoring inoculation programs in Africa, South America and Asia. A sentiment that many feel is ‘diplomatic one-upmanship’ and ‘colonialist’ in nature is the UK’s refusal to recognise AstraZeneca vaccines manufactured under a different name and injected in a country other than the UK. Therefore, despite some being fully jabbed by World Health Organisation (WHO) approved vaccines, students are still having to isolate for extended periods upon flying into the UK and ultimately, further delaying their ability to attend lectures in person. In order to provide support for those arriving late and isolating, the university partnered with Ayda to deliver a fully virtual Freshers Fair wherein students could access and explore all Sussex societies, sports teams and clubs, or learn about university services and discounts. Similarly, Sussex is organising a virtual event via Talentspace for students to find jobs and volunteering opportunities on campus.

Rishika Jain, a first-year BA International Relations student from India says,“ I got my Confirmation of Acceptance for Studies (CAS) late, so my visa application was delayed. It was then quite a shocker to me that the day before I was supposed to leave, I tested positive for COVID despite taking precautions. I could not come to terms with the fact that I was not leaving when planned but it is what it is”. 

With lectures and seminars commencing from the 27th of September, the university has made remote learning arrangements for those unable to attend in person, therefore easing stress and anxiety present with students. “They [University of Sussex] have been super supportive and understanding. Anytime I have had a doubt, they have responded almost immediately. I am going to be there for three years so I will take full advantage of it. I am really excited,” Rishika added.

The opportunities to connect with lecturers in person, experiencing university life with peers hands-on, and being on campus is highly anticipated. Albeit the setbacks faced by international students, exhilaration persists.

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