Lingnan University study says Covid-19 has had a huge impact on international students

  • Many students were worried about the coronavirus outbreak, especially the safety of their families
  • Students unable to return to their home countries during the pandemic reported feeling lonely and anxious
Joanne Ma |

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International students have reported feeling more stressed and anxious due to the extra struggles brought on by Covid-19.

The coronavirus pandemic caused “moderate to extreme” disruption to the learning activities of international students around the globe, a study has revealed.

Between April 12 and May 1 this year, Lingnan University conducted an online survey of 583 international higher education students from 26 countries and regions around the world on their physical and psychological well-being. About half of the respondents, or 46 per cent, were research postgraduate students. At the time of the survey, 61 per cent were still in their place of study.

Almost 90 per cent of the respondents said the outbreak had caused “moderate to extreme” disruption to their learning activities, in terms of their motivation and anxiety levels. More than 70 per cent were worried about the outbreak, saying that one of their major concerns was the safety of their families who were in lockdown thousands of kilometres away.

This anxiety, on top of the social distancing measures, caused 45.2 per cent to feel lonely amid the pandemic.

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Although most of them were worried about the situation, 14 per cent of the respondents said they did not know how to seek help from the local authorities if they were to develop coronavirus symptoms. 

Results also showed that more than 70 per cent of the respondents said they got information about the pandemic from social media. 

Joshua Mok Ka-ho, Lingnan vice-president and the leader of the research project, said this could cause more stress and disruption to students’ education “since there is every likelihood of an infodemic [inaccurate and sometimes exaggerated news] from such sources”. 

About 50 per cent of the respondents, however, said that although their learning activities were affected by the pandemic, they were still satisfied with the teaching and supervision arrangements provided by their institutions, including online classes and assessments. 

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Despite their worries about the pandemic and the psychological impact it had on them, the majority of the students, or 83.8 per cent, said they were keen to return to their current institutions to continue their studies, if possible.

The research team at Lingnan advised higher education institutions to find creative and effective ways to support international students during this challenging time. 

Mok suggested they offer help to students not only via email, but also on mobile instant messaging platforms. The institutions could also develop tailor-made mobile apps to maintain contact with their students and provide health care information, he added.