Speaking for Ourselves

A year cut short due to Covid-19

A year cut short due to Covid-19

Sam Joyce

 Migrant Voice -
 Migrant Voice - A year cut short due to Covid-19

London, home to some of the best museums in the world, seemed the obvious place to do museum studies, and being an American holding an Irish passport conferred an additional privilege. 

Even though Britain is no longer part of the European Union it has a special deal with Irish citizens who do not need a visa to study or work. That was one less factor to worry about and another cost for which I didn’t need an additional loan. Friends had described the process of getting a tier 4 visa and it sounded terrible and confusing. I already had enough stress from moving to a different country, leaving my family and taking on a masters. 

But halfway through my course Covid-19 arrived. It raised the problem of whether I should stay in London during lockdown or return to Boston and my family. 

I had two options and neither really appealed to me. 

If I stayed in London I would be cooped up in a tiny dormitory room with a shared kitchen and bathrooms. I couldn’t really leave the student halls unless I needed essentials or wanted to do my allotted one hour of exercise.  If I decided to go home I would be living with mom and dad, confined to my room, the basement and a backyard. I would also be working 40 plus hours a week at a grocery store.  Ultimately, getting a pay check while living with my parents won. 

So I said goodbye to friends, classmates and flatmates. It was hard because they had become my family and lifeline.  I saw them almost every day and they often tagged along for the little adventures I went on or helped celebrate holidays such as Thanksgiving.  

My experiences, friendships, education were cut short. Even though classes were transferred to an online platform, it didn’t feel the same. I didn’t feel connected to my teachers and classmates. I never felt that I got what I paid for. I spent money on tuition and room and board for a whole year and online classes and a city on lockdown did not seem fair. I felt like I had wasted my time. 

I hated the thought of abandoning my friends and classmates but I realised I was not in the same predicament as some of the other international students. They did not have an Irish passport so they had spent money on a visa to study and work in the UK. Since everything was shut down they did not get their money’s worth out of the Tier 4 visa. They had bills but if they couldn’t work they couldn’t earn money, and therefore couldn’t pay for rent or school. 

I am beyond thankful to have Irish citizenship and passport. Without it I would have not been able to study in London as easily as I had. I am also thankful for the friends that I made along the way and hope that they are handling Covid-19 as well as they can. 

This article was written and published as part of Migrant Voice's International Students Week (13-17 July 2020). We're celebrating international students in the UK and raising their voices on the issues that affect them. Read more here.


TOP IMAGE: Sam Joyce, provided by herself