The world is struggling to cope with the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. The virus does not show mercy on anyone, young or old. It has caused millions of deaths.
In most countries, the economy took a huge hit, causing business closures and job loss for millions of people. Worldwide, nations are struggling to provide economic relief packages for their citizens. Many people are suffering to survive and rebuild their lives.
Despite the worldwide coverage of the pandemic, issues faced by international students are rarely reported, even though the students are highly affected by this disaster economically and socially. In this case, international students find it harder to access affordable tuition, insurance and accommodation options.
Since 2000, the number of international students worldwide has grown to almost 6 million in 2018. This number is even larger than the population of dozens of countries across the globe. International students have had significant economic, social and cultural contributions worldwide. For example, the United States received over 1 million international students, which generated around $50 billion in 2019. The sheer size of this industry has attracted nations to focus on it.
Normally, international students are asked to pay for tuition on time to secure their enrolment. They have a significant economic contribution to the institution and their host nations. However, there is little attention given to the well-being of international students, specifically during the pandemic.
The coronavirus outbreak has created terrible outcomes for trade, commerce, business and education. Lockdowns have caused the stop of tourism, closures of businesses and education is being held online. The cost of living globally has increased.
The pandemic has made the complex process of being an international student more complicated. While bureaucracy is common for international students, they have been plagued with even more obstacles after the pandemic. For example, the documentation process in renewing a visa has become more difficult than before. In some countries, such as Malaysia, international students are required to return to the country to renew their student visas. This creates a challenge during the global pandemic.
If I am to return to Malaysia, it will cost me triple the amount for expenses, quarantine, accommodation, etc. Hence, as an international student, I am one of the victims since the COVID-19 cases erupted. Besides that, it will be very risky to travel while most scientists call on people to stay at home or avoid unnecessary trips.
I completed my courses in 2017 and lived in Malaysia for almost three consecutive years. I believe that there are thousands of international students who are in a similar situation to mine. It would be helpful if universities understand this issue and collaborate with their respective governments to lend a hand to international students on this issue.
While we could pay the tuition, insurance and other pre-costs through online payment and register courses and attend courses online, it is dumfounding why we cannot renew our student visa through the embassy.
There are millions of jobless people from all walks of life. Millions of people are struggling to gain access to everyday necessities and food. Why am I supposed to spend such a huge amount in such uncertainty? Frankly, these factors create a challenge for me to continue my Ph.D. I also have been thinking of quitting my Ph.D. due to these reasons alongside some other factors. It is very easy to say you can handle it because I’m an international student, which is a mentality that should also be changed.
Having a Ph.D. does not mean securing a decent job. We still need to knock on numerous doors. Yes, we look for knowledge, but it does not mean we have millions of years and money to squander.
International students are truly cultural ambassadors, while universities should demonstrate kindness, tolerance and understanding of their struggle at the highest level. Just teaching the subjects without planting practical social, national and universal values will create selfish and arrogant individuals. A university provides educational and cultural changes and interactions. In this unique environment, sometimes, you might be surprised when a high-ranking officer from a unit or department in your reputable university replies to you when you need help the most.
Numerous platforms have come out with their ranking of the best universities annually. I believe that the best is the one that respects the students, prioritizes the well-being of their students and to be able to solve any problems faced by students effectively and objectively, which will help students gain problem-solving and creative thinking skills. A university is the real battleground for the clash of ideas and pulling and arising new universal ideas. Fear of failure, fear of intimidation and so on should not daunt students. For example, it is claimed that almost half of Ph.D. graduates have mental and physiological issues. So, we are the ones creating problematic societies.
It should be changed. Education is a universal right of any individual. It should not be a sector to satisfy one’s own economic, physical and psychological interests.
During my master’s degree years in the International Islamic University, Malaysia, I had two great, friendly, humble and helpful supervisors, namely, professor Dr. el Fatih Abdullahi Abdelsalam as the main supervisor and assistant professor Norhaslinda Bt. Jamaiudin as co-supervisor. The communication between my supervisors and myself was very good. I just knocked on the door whenever I had any issue, and they were willing to discuss it with me. No drama, no excuses. I’m grateful that they contributed to my career. And the department of political science was like a team in the champions league, honestly, except a few harsh and challenging names. It was a joyful, valuable period and an honor for me to be a part of this department and university.
Education is the best part of our lives. However, so that we have memorable moments that could take us to the skies, not the other way around, it should not be forgotten that international students are truly cultural ambassadors. So I kindly ask all countries, including my own, Turkey and Malaysia, to consider easing the visa procedures for international students pursuing their studies.
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