Covid-19 blues: Away from home, international students face added stress

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Photograph by Tumisu/Pixabay

The initial fear over the pandemic has settled but anxiety lingers over whether we will ever be able to return to our ‘old normal’, Lynnette Too writes.

Unstable. Unstable. Unknown. It’s hard to deny that we are living in unprecedented times. The world as we know it has gone on hiatus.

Decisions are being made about the way we conduct our daily lives. As the number of Covid-19 infections and deaths rise around the world, more and more aspects of our live have been altered. 

Many have lost jobs, and hospitals are bracing themselves to deal with an influx of patients. 

The demand for home gym equipment has risen as people shun closed gyms and create their own workout areas. 

Catching up over coffee or enjoying a dinner with some friends are social activities now crossed out from the calendar.

Trips to the grocery store require an awareness of how far we are from other shoppers, with coloured tape marking the floor as a visual reminder. 

These novel additions are gradually becoming a part of our ‘new normal’. 

Food delivery staff drop off our meals at the door and back away before we open the door, to adhere to social distancing rules. 

Hand sanitiser dispensers grace the entrances and exits of shopping centres. Dedicated staff members count the flow of customers in and out of the stores, ensuring that maximum capacity is not exceeded. 

Posters remind us that only one person is allowed in the lift. 

Verbal announcements in public transport list the symptoms of Covid-19. 

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Police personnel ensure we are only outside our homes for essential activities. 

No doubt the world had been moving at a rapid pace with the development of technology and the trend of globalisation. 

But recently, the physical movement of people has slowed down. 

Measures are in place restricting people from leave the house, apart from essential activities. 

The tourism and air travel sectors have been hit as nations close their borders to foreigners. 

But in many others ways, this global pandemic has forced an acceleration in several areas. 

Some nations have recruited student nurses to join in the fight against the pandemic. 

Major supermarkets have allocated more staff as customers stockpile for the lockdowns. 

Both social and professional activities have moved online, increasing the pressure on existing technology to cater to the extra traffic online. Individuals and businesses have no choice but to become more adept at transitioning to online platforms. 

International students are caught between returning to their home countries to be with their families and staying on in their host nations to continue their studies. Initial anxieties arose over the uncertainty over how our learning would take place. We worried about the safety of our family members and vice versa, and this concern rose as the coronavirus spread. 

For many international students, the notion of ‘home’ is multifaceted. Interacting with other international students can provide many of us with a feeling of a ‘home away from home’. 

The lockdowns and restrictions may also affect our mental state. The usual stress is now amplified as we try to avoid being infected with Covid-19, an invisible but dangerous enemy. 

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While we could once choose between having a ‘chill day’ at home and hanging out with friends in the city, this is no longer an option. Homebody or party animal, everyone is feeling the effects of being confined to a few locations – work, grocery outlets and home. 

Most of us feel it is unfair to burden others with our struggles. In this time of Covid-19, when many of us will probably feel unfamiliar types of stress, it is even more important to reach out to others and to reduce any stigma attached to disclosing our own vulnerability. 

Many of the measures introduced into our everyday lives are necessary to combat Covid-19. But how long will these controls, in one form or another, be in place? Until Covid-19 is under relative control? Until it is completely eliminated? Perhaps not even then?

Many of the practices we have now adopted during the lockdown will probably remain. Not necessarily all measures such as the closure of cinemas and bowling alleys, but subtle practices such as more frequent and thorough hand-washing and the use of hand sanitisers. 

The past weeks have revealed how damaging a global pandemic can be not only to our physical health but perhaps also, as we shall see in the coming months, even our mental health. 

The initial fear and panic over the pandemic has settled as people are slowly adjusting to a Covid-19 world. But anxiety lingers over our ‘new normal’ as we wonder if we will ever be able to return to our ‘old normal’.

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Lynnette Too is a Malaysian studying psychology and international relations in Melbourne. She is passionate about music, food and travel

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