Nigerians Studying Abroad and COVID-19: Implications, Fears and solutions.

Written by Kehinde Olorunfemi (studyexpress.ng)

The Coronavirus, also known as COVID-19 is hitting our world very badly. As of today, we have recorded over 1 million cases and more than 50,000 deaths! This is alarming and already a global pandemic. This has disrupted life around the world. This impact is far-reaching and has definitely affected travel and economies globally. Higher education and institutions are not spared in all of these. Current and prospective students are also having their own share of this pandemic. All universities and institutions are shut globally. Most European and American universities have had to change to online classes in order to complete the current semester. The majority are not able to start a new semester.

It is no longer news that Nigeria has some of the highest numbers of international students abroad. This is largely due to limited number of space in our institutions here, the quality of our education, persistent industrial actions by Nigerian universities’ lecturers and non-teaching staff, and several other reasons.

Before the total lockdown and placement of travel bans in the US and other major European countries, our organization had a number of our students who had obtained their visas and were supposed to travel. They were forced to cancel their flights, a decision which was costly. This pandemic has definitely affected several current students and prospective students alike.

I know the global crisis may have sent fears into the heart of many prospective students and parents, while some may have decided never to attempt to travel anymore. Here comes a time in the history of our world when we are all facing a common enemy. COVID-19 may have affected some countries more than the other, but it is a collective crisis.

As the World Health Organization and other international agencies are working overnight to find a cure or vaccine to tackle the virus, here are some of the ways you can play your part in helping yourself and the world around you.

  1. Stay positive.
  2. Maintain good hygiene and social distancing.
  3. Seek medical attention when you feel unwell.
  4. Help a friend or neighbor in need.
  5. Desist from spreading unverified and fake news.

However, how do we manage this situation and prepare for life after the crisis?

For us as an organization that cares about the welfare of our students, we are monitoring the situations and advising our students accordingly. Here are a few suggestions.

  1. Cancel/Reschedule flight and stay calm: If you have received your study visa and bought a ticket, we advise that you either cancel or open the ticket to be rescheduled for a later date after the crisis. Stay close to updates from our office. Also, stay positive.
  2. Defer your admission: If you have received an offer of admission and yet to apply for Visa, it would be in your best interest to defer the offer to a later date. We are advising students to either defer to September 2020 or February 2021 intakes, as the case may be.
  3. Apply for September or February intake: If you are yet to submit your application or you still consider applying, we advise you to apply early but apply for September 2020 or February 2021 intake. We pray and believe the pandemic will be over before mid-year. Do not let the crisis stop your ambition.
  4. Study Online: If your plan was to travel for short courses in the summer before, we encourage some students to consider the option of distance learning or online education.

If you are planning to study abroad, it is important that you follow developments closely.

The full extent of consequences on the higher education sector in the months to come is not yet clear and still unfolding. Below, you find a country-by-country overview of the most important current developments for students planning to study abroad [data obtained from study.eu]

Austria

  • Teaching at universities in Austria will be paused until at least 3 April 2020. (Details: studyinaustria.at)
  • There has not been any announcement regarding application deadlines for the winter semester.

Belgium

  • Many universities in Belgium have limited or suspended their teaching and other face-to-face activities.

Denmark

  • On March 13, Denmark imposed a country-wide lockdown that includes suspension of teaching at universities, for at least 2 weeks.
  • Land borders and airports have been closed until further notice.

Estonia

  • On 13 March, the government declared the national state of emergency until 1 May. Universities in Estonia are currently closed.
  • No announcement has been made regarding university application deadlines for the autumn semester.

Finland

  • Many universities in Finland are moving teaching from classrooms to online solutions for the time being.

France

  • The French government has placed the country under a restrictive lockdown. Starting 17 March, people are asked to not leave their house unless absolutely necessary. (Details: TheLocal.fr)
  • Universities in France have been closed until further notice. (Details in French: etudiant.gouv.fr)
  • No announcement has been made regarding university application deadlines for the autumn semester. Changes may be decided by universities themselves.

Germany

  • Starting 16 March, the German government has imposed (and later tightened) a lockdown that affects all non-essential activities.
  • Universities in Germany have postponed the start of teaching for the summer semester from 1 April to late April or early May, depending on which state they are located in. No classes are supposed to be held in person until then.
  • There has not been any announcement regarding application deadlines for the winter semester, due to begin on 1 October 2020. These typically are on 15 July, with some exceptions. Some effect is considered likely because high-school leaving exams in Germany have been postponed.

Italy

  • Universities in Italy suspended teaching already in early March.
  • No announcement has been made regarding university application deadlines for the autumn semester.

Lithuania

  • On 12 March, the government ordered closure of Lithuanian universities for at least two weeks, recommending online learning.
  • No announcement has been made regarding university application deadlines for the autumn semester.

Netherlands

  • Universities in the Netherlands have been asked by the government to reduce face-to-face teaching and replace it with online solutions as much as possible. (Details: government.nl)
  • No announcement has been made regarding university application deadlines for the autumn semester. Delays are expected for visa procedures for international students starting later this year. (Details: nuffic.nl)

Russia

  • Russia has enacted lockdown measures to limit the spread of infection.
  • No announcement has been made regarding application deadlines of universities in Russia for the autumn semester. Deadlines are usually not before July.

Spain

  • On March 14, the Spanish government declared a state of emergency and placed the country in lockdown, currently at least until 11 April. Universities in Spain are currently closed.

Sweden

  • Universities in Sweden have been asked to move teaching from classrooms to online solutions.
  • Applications for autumn 2020 already closed in January. Admissions results are expected to be published along the usual timeline, on 3 April for Masters and 20 April for Bachelors. (Details: studyinsweden.se)
  • There will not be any exceptions to application, document or fee deadlines. With questions about submitting their (potentially delayed) final transcripts & diplomas, tuition fee payments, autumn semester start date, accommodation and insurance, students are supposed to contact their university. (Details: universityadmissions.se)

Switzerland

United Kingdom

  • Many universities across the United Kingdom have limited or completely suspended face-to-face teaching.
  • The UK Council for International Student Affairs has compiled its guidance for international students in the UK: ukcisa.org.uk
  • For international students currently in the UK and unable to return, the UK government has announced a visa extension. (Details: gov.uk)
  • British universities commonly accept applications for Masters programmes on a rolling basis without deadlines. Please check with your desired institutions directly to see if and how COVID-19 might affect application procedures.

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