Originally written in Dutch for Veto by Thomas Maes, translated for The Voice by Gwynne van Kaauwen (International Section Editor)
Originally published on 19 November 2020
Living in a foreign country without family during this lockdown: these are not easy times for international students. A survey by Veto shows that a majority (57%) of them always or almost always follow the corona rules, while a little more than one fifth (23%) states they follow the rules rarely or never. A fifth answers in the middle between always and never.
A large majority of 80% of the international students do not make mutual agreements about COVID-19. If this does happen, the rules concern, for example, the use of the common areas when there is a someone infected with COVID-19 present.
"The university does not keep an eye on the situations at the ‘kots’. We only receive a few cliché emails"
One fourth does not feel comfortable with the current rules at their kot and about 40% says they are afraid of contracting COVID-19 at their place of residence. ‘The university does not keep an eye on the situations at the ‘kots’ at all, we only receive a few cliché emails,’ said one of the respondents.
40% often or always lonely
40% state that they have way less social interactions because of COVID-19; for 28% of respondents COVID-19 leads to less social interaction. ‘Last year we did a lot together and we all got along very well. This time I’ve only said “hello” to everyone from a distance and I barely know my new roommates,’ testifies one of the international students.
22% of international students indicates that they are always lonely and another 21% is often lonely. Almost half (47%) of the respondents are sometimes lonely and only 10% answered never. ‘I would rather have corona than live in this situation,’ one respondent says. The loneliness is thus higher than among Belgian students, or at least higher than the loneliness among Belgian students before this lockdown.
"It would be totally different if we were allowed to have pets. Anything to not spend weeks in a row without any physical contact"
Furthermore, 78% express that they have cancelled meetings with friends and family from the home country due to COVID-19. The lack of personal contact is heavy: ‘The lockdown would be totally different if we were allowed to have pets, or for example be foster parents of pets. Anything to not spend days or weeks in a row without any physical contact.’
A striking fact that is addressed in the testimonials of the international students is the feeling of having to live alone in an abandoned room. A few students point out that many Belgian students left their student rooms during the lockdown.
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The survey took place from 3 to 14 November, after the second lockdown was announced. 91 international students living in a student room in Leuven completed the survey.
Three quarters of the participating international students live in a room with a communal kitchen and sanitary facilities, half of which are in a residence and a fourth in a private room. Just under 15% rent a studio, be it from a private tenant or at a residence. Of the last 10%, most respondents live in a room with a shared kitchen, but personal sanitary facilities.