Feelings of International Students in Turkey during Covid-19: Some Suggestions
Youth is the salient period of a human’s life in that it includes emotional development, moral maturation and personality development. The core of this period is a transition from adolescence to adulthood; the physical, mental and social development carried out during this period is very important to define other stages in the life of an individual. During this period of life, university and department selection are excessively important. Young people who prefer to attend higher education outside their country face various problems in the country they are studying: some of these include adaptation to a new life in a new country, housing, nutrition, psychosocial problems as well as problems emanate from the education system, particularly in terms of different language and culture. This year with the beginning of a new decade, however, an uncommon pandemic, namely Covid-19 posed new problems for international students.
Firstly let us explain what pandemic means. Pandemic influenza is one of the leading health threats currently facing the world (WHO, 2019). Pandemics are large-scale epidemics affecting millions of people across multiple countries, sometimes spreading throughout the globe (WHO,2010). For a virus or bacterium to cause a pandemic it must be an organism for which most people do not have preexisting immunity, transmitting easily from person to person, and causing severe illness (Kilbourne,1977). Pandemics are frequently marked by uncertainty, confusion and a sense of urgency (WHO,2005, p.1). Uncertainty may persist well into the pandemic, especially concerning the question of whether a pandemic is truly over.
Cultural minorities residing within larger mainstream culture, such as new immigrants, may experience stressors that are not encountered by people from the majority culture, such as unfamiliarity with community support systems, difficulty accessing services due to language difficulties, discrimination, and immigration status issues. Thus, during times of pandemic, some ethnic minorities may experience more adverse psychological consequences than members of the majority culture (Shultz J.M, 2008).
How does it really feel being abroad during a pandemic? Well, it is pretty hard to describe these confusing feelings. You are quarantined at a closed space and have no idea what is happening outside, everyday someone dies maybe even without knowing that he/she is infected by covid-19 and that is very dread, on one side you think about your health and on the other side, you think of your family and your loved ones in your country. Now that we are confined and quarantined, it makes the distance feel even bigger. I’m staying in a dormitory with other international students like me so observing their feelings and behaviours helps me a lot to cope with my own. We are all in low motivation when the pandemic shut down colleges many international students had no idea if they would ever be able to return to class. The status of all international students has become less certain because of the coronavirus pandemic. Personally I miss a lot and I don’t think I can learn the same things on my own. I love studying at my university and it feels like I’m not doing that.
The Turkish Government, however, during this hard situation, is caring well for all foreign students from all over the world who choose Turkey for their higher studies. The government is giving them not only shelters and food but also showing readiness to help in the case of health issues, which is the most important element during this pandemic. Personally, I feel calm and safe knowing that people here really trust the government as it fights the pandemic with utmost importance and provides all sort of healthcare facilities to everyone, irrespective of languages, religions, races and nationalities. I feel very lucky that I’m here and not in countries where the scenario is quite different. Luckily here in Turkey, in comparison to many countries, things are going great, daily statistics are giving us hope for optimism.
However, We have to know that the patterns of psychological reactions to pandemics are complex. Whereas some people are resilient to stress, other individuals become highly distressed when confronted with threatening events such as pandemic infection, some react with indifference or resignation while others become highly fearful or anxious, and some develop emotional disorders, some people have tended to have health anxiety despite being physically healthy. So, I suggest that we become aware of that. Pandemics come in waves so the end of a wave of infection does not necessarily signal the end of the pandemic. There could be another wave and the next wave could be more serious than the one before. The news media can fuel uncertainties with speculative articles about what “might” happen during an outbreak of infectious disease.
During the pandemic, people need to be able to tolerate or accept a certain degree of uncertainty. However, I would recommend bibliotherapy, it is a really promising and useful method to save your mental health during these days. I wish you good health.
Sumea Ramadani, Student of Guidance and Psychological Counseling, Hacettepe University.