Introduction

I am Srestha, a MSc Psychology student at the University of Stirling. This is my very first time being abroad, and that in itself can be overwhelming for first-generation international students like myself. There is also the additional stress of familiarising oneself with a completely new academic curriculum. Add to that an odd global pandemic, along with all its lockdown rules and self-isolation and student life can become difficult, especially if you are thousands of miles away from your family and friends, literally stranded on an entirely different continent, without knowing when you might be able to return home. Thankfully, I have found myself stranded in Scotland (more specifically, Stirling) out of all the places on this planet.

Help during COVID19

Since day one, the University of Stirling has made sure that all the students are kept up to date, according to the government’s latest regulations regarding COVID-19. An FAQ webpage was set up immediately, to make important and relevant information about COVID-19 easily accessible to us. We received emails from the accommodation team enquiring about our future plans and they catered to our requirements accordingly. We were assured that the accommodation leases would be extended until the end of the academic session for those who did not have alternate options available. Even under reduced services due to the lockdown, the accommodation team has tried its best to resolve any issues reported.

Mental health

As a person who suffers from clinical anxiety and depression, the last few months have been extremely challenging for me. The main reason I have been able to cope is thanks to the university’s Student Support Services and the Accessibility and Inclusion Service. I was assigned a Mental Health Mentor who is absolutely amazing, and it is really comforting and reassuring to have access to her, even if I just need to rant about something. I use the university’s counselling service as well, which has really helped me manage some of my mental health issues. Also, there have been a number of staff checking up on me time and again, to ensure I have all the support I need. In addition to that, I consider myself fortunate to have some really kind and compassionate classmates, who make sure that I am coping well under the current circumstances. They are always eager to help me or just lend an ear.

Online learning

On the academic front, all our lectures and workshops took place virtually. Nothing can obviously replace face-to-face lectures, but the online lectures were equally efficient because everything was the same except for the fact that they were done through our computer screens. I have not faced any difficulties while accessing study materials, thanks to the Information Services who have made the library accessible online along with providing additional links to academic resources. Also, we had flexible time frames for our online exams, to let us complete them at our own convenience.

Be Connected

Apart from this, the university runs numerous online programmes to make student lives under lockdown fun and enriching. ‘Be Connected’ is one such programme, which promotes social health and wellbeing, intercultural activities, and a sense of inclusiveness and interconnectedness across the whole University of Stirling community. It has several online activities planned for each day of the week, and they range from yoga and workout sessions to webinars concerning mental health, and even virtual pub quizzes! I have attended webinars on sleep hygiene, academic writing, dissertation planning, and even art history among other things, and they have been really insightful.

What the future holds

As of now, I am focusing on my master’s dissertation to successfully complete my degree first. Thereafter, I plan on enrolling myself in a PhD programme.

Finally, the city of Stirling deserves a special mention. People are so amiable here, that even if you go for a morning walk wearing a mask and gloves, looking all scary and ominous, they will still greet you with jolly good mornings. Stirling welcomed me with open arms when I first came here from India last September, and I could almost instantly feel the warmth and friendliness of the people as and the place itself. I still find it quite difficult to come to terms with how gorgeous it is, be it in the drizzling rain or the dazzling sunlight (especially the sunlight!). It’s like a beautiful Boston ivy that I did not even realise had started to grow on me. It was dormant throughout winter, but spring and summer brought out her beauty in all its glory. And before I knew it, Stirling became my home!