We are experiencing a global crisis due to the Covid-19 outbreak, and our first concern should be our health and that of those around us. This is something we all agree on. However, the potential impact this pandemic will have on my studies has been constantly on my mind during the last few days.
Let me give you a little bit of context. I’m a master’s student studying in Brazil, on the verge of finishing my dissertation. A few weeks ago I got accepted to a PhD programme at my dream university in the UK, with full funding. I can’t put into words how excited I was when I received the email.
Then the coronavirus spread to Europe and America. Schools are being shut down, flights are being cancelled, social distancing measures have been put in place and coronavirus is the leading headline across all news channels.
My university has been closed for a few days and will remain shut until the end of March. There is no provision for online learning as of yet. I only have to defend my dissertation to finish my master’s, so hopefully I can do that over some kind of video conferencing tool.
This is leading me to have many concerns. Will I be able to finish my master’s degree on time? When will the university reopen? Will I be able to get a visa? What about British universities, will they close? If so, how will I get assistance for this whole process? No one really knows the answers.
Finishing your master’s dissertation is stressful enough. Getting all of the documents ready for the start of your PhD overseas and meeting all of the deadlines can also be overwhelming. Now a global health crisis has been added into the mix.
During the first couple of months of 2020, I was constantly anxious waiting for the results of my applications. As an international student, I knew my chances of getting into a British university with funding were low. The waiting game was nerve-wracking, but it was worth it.
In the days after I got my results I was full of excitement; I would go through the university’s website to find out about accommodation, study spaces, campus living, societies and so on. Little did I know that after this period, the coronavirus would bring that anxiety back.
To be able to start my PhD, I first need to finish my master’s. To do so, my university has to reopen and let me present my master’s. Will this happen in a few days? A few weeks? Months?
After that, I need to apply and pay for my student visa, which costs £348. I will also have to pay the healthcare surcharge, which seems to amount to £1,500. With the economy being hit by the virus and the value of the British pound changing by the hour, how many reais (Brazilian currency) do I need for these fees? Can I buy a plane ticket or will there be travel restrictions to the UK by the time I have to travel there?
The university in the UK has not contacted me yet to let me know what is happening. It has a website page that is being constantly updated with information for current and future students. For now, it is not planning to shut down. My biggest concern is that I might not be able to finish my master’s and apply for the visa. On this issue, the information in the FAQs says the university will evaluate the situation case by case, which is not very clarifying.
The world is putting a lot of effort into controlling this pandemic and we should all do what we can to help by always listening to the health authorities. We will get through this. In the meantime, I will try to do what I can from home, hoping this outbreak is controlled as soon as possible.