When Ritu, a resident of Bhilai, Chhattisgarh studying at University of Liverpool, learnt to her disappointment that her varsity was moving classes online amid the coronavirus outbreak, she felt her UK dreams crash. “I am pursuing masters in architecture and it is just a year-long programme. Our course requires creating models and intensive tutorials which has been moved online. Digital learning kills the purpose of studying in a foreign university and paying such a hefty fee,” she remarked. “With the classes and assessments being delayed, it leaves us with less than six months to find a job, which is extremely difficult on a tier-IV visa,” she claims.
Ritu is among thousands of Indian students studying abroad who have been affected by the disruption caused by the coronavirus pandemic. The worst-hit are those on job-search visas or in their final year as their visa deadlines are racing against the lockdown timelines. Most students are demanding an extension in visas, however, this is not in the control of universities. Many prominent foreign universities have already gone online with their lectures, while claiming to go lenient with their assessment.
New session, high hopes
The pandemic has also affected the choices of Indian students who had planned to study abroad for the upcoming summer session. While many are considering to postpone it till winter, others are waiting to assess the situation before applying. Meanwhile, the application process has also been halted by varsities.
Prapti, from Kolkata, was ready to fly to Germany when she got to know that her flight was cancelled and the country was going through a lockdown. “The session has been postponed till April 24, however, if the university does not commence the summer semester by April-end, then it would not finish on time either. Since I am already enrolled, I am hoping they will defer it to the next semester; without me having to re-apply. But I may have to apply for a visa again, which I am not looking forward to.”
Those living abroad have started to lose sleep over the threat of a slow job market. Natasha Arora, who was working at an airport in Australia, has recently lost her job. “I was working at the airport but after the coronavirus, we were given reduced shifts. I had worked only 15 hours in the week. I was on a casual job and hence was among the first to be fired. If the lockdown extends, the duty-free shops will be closed too. I have been looking for jobs but no one is hiring at this point.”
In video| Study Abroad guide
Prateek (name changed on request) was studying MBA from Munich and was on the lookout for a job after submitting his dissertation. His plans too have taken an uncertain turn. “My dissertation was due in March so I came to meet my family in the interim. My visa is also due for renewal by March-end, however, due to the pandemic, my return flight was cancelled. I am neither able to go back nor to get any reply for visa authorities. I’m still paying rent there. I am worried about the job market after this crisis.”
Those in the sophomore year of undergraduate courses are expecting things to be better by the time of their graduation. Prakahar Saxena, from UP, who is currently studying in Tokyo commented, “The situation in Japan seems to be under control, there is no lockdown, people are celebrating local festivals. Most of the students here are practicing social distancing. While the classes have been shifted online, there is not much worry about placements as I still have two years to go.”
While Tokyo is among the nations who have been less affected by the pandemic, the situation for undergraduate students in other countries is still challenging. Mujahid Sha, studying at Oxford Brookes university said, “Our four weeks of pending classes have been crammed into two-week courses. From April 3, classes will begin online. Since I am a first-year student and recently came to the country, this has given me more time to settle down and understand the place and system. I have years to go before my placement hence I am not worried.”
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