Lakhs of Indian students travel to foreign countries every year to pursue higher education. Of late, an increasing number of students are going abroad right after schooling to do their under graduation. India, in fact, sends the second largest number of students to foreign universities, only behind China.
USA, Canada and Australia are the top destinations for Indian students to pursue their higher education.
Among our neighbouring countries, China hosts the maximum number of Indian students. China is increasingly becoming a popular destination for students studying medicine.
With the Covid-19 pandemic disrupting the way of life and work of people across the world, Indian students studying abroad were also caught off guard.
“Due to the pandemic, our classes are being held online with a combination of pre-recorded lectures and live sessions. Our written exams are now going to be held online as open book exams. Further, all course-related travel has been cancelled. For dissertation, we are now expected to work on desk-based projects,” says Vignesh Kamath, who is pursuing MSc in Biodiversity, Conservation and Management at the University of Oxford, England.
Some students who had gone to other countries for their project-related work are even stuck there due to ban on international flights.
Without access to libraries and other facilities, students like Vignesh are finding it difficult to prepare for exams. However, students are forming online study groups to cope with the situation.
Taking into consideration the inconvenience caused to students due to sudden shift to online medium, cancellation of practical sessions, labs etc., some colleges are changing their grading system to just pass and fail instead of allotting different grades or grade points.
In USA, which sees the maximum number of footfalls of international students, some colleges had extended the spring break to make arrangements for classes to be conducted online.
“Our spring break was extended by a week in March and this entire semester will be held online. We have been given access to online resources, and other materials are sent home by the university if required. We have been advised to take up remote internships,” says Samhitha Charan, who is pursuing Computer Networking course at North Carolina State University, USA.
Though universities are not reducing the fees, some universities such as Swinburne University in Australia are open to scholarship extensions to help students.
Many universities have even helped students staying in the university housing or those living in shared spaces to shift to new accommodation to maintain social or physical distancing.
“Students who lost their part-time jobs have been given two months extra salary plus an additional funding of $500,” Samhitha says.
The universities are also making course selection more flexible by allowing students to choose fall courses in spring and vice-versa.
With most universities offering education for free with no tuition fee, German universities are much sought after by international students, especially Mechanical Engineering students. As Covid-19 cases rose, the country imposed a regulated lockdown. All public events are either cancelled, postponed or are being held online.
“Only online classes are being conducted. No personal appointments are being made in order to maintain distance between people. We are communicating virtually. However, as I am currently working on my thesis, I am not finding any difficulty to work from my residence,” says Suraj Bhatta, who is studying Computer Aided Mechanical Engineering at RWTH Aachen University, Germany.
Many universities are also offering health as well as career counselling to students. Support groups have been formed to help international students.
“A Covid Help and Rescue team has been set up by my college to help out students. Also, the college is assisting students to renew or extend their visas in case they wish to extend their courses to attend regular classes later,” says Suhrudh Reddy, who is studying Master of Business Administration in Paris School of Business, France.
While many countries are slowly easing lockdown, students too are handling the situation with a positive attitude.
“I’m coping well now compared to the initial lockdown. I have developed new habits and have started new hobbies during the lockdown. It’s better now than before as things are slowly getting back to normal. We are currently having our vacations and the next semester which will start in September will be fully online,” says Sahil Agnihotri, who is pursuing Supply Chain Management course at Cape Breton University, Canada.
While the students have to bear the inconvenience caused due to the Covid-19 lockdown, they are resilient and hope for the pandemic to end soon, the economy to revive and get a good job once they graduate. Also, their dreams and plans are still intact!