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How are our international pupils coping in lockdown?

Currently, around the UK, there are Bethany students logged on to the Internet having their daily lessons, albeit remotely. This is causing varying degrees of emotions for our pupils, but imagine also trying to cope with time differences, and everyone around you speaking a language which is not English. This is the reality that the Bethany English as an Additional Language (EAL) pupils are living with.

Valeria, is in lockdown in Russia, which is three hours ahead of the UK. Her experience is different to ours in the UK as she can’t go beyond her garden gate. She is enjoying the lie-in before lessons because tutor time for her begins at 11.30am, but she is missing her friends and finding it harder to concentrate at home.

Andrew is in Hong Kong, where society is slowly easing out of lockdown, and is seven hours ahead. He is also missing friends and is unhappy about the ‘jittery’ Wi-fi. This can make concentrating on lessons especially difficult.

Vivi, who is back in China, is likewise seven hours ahead. She had to go into quarantine in a specially designated hotel for 14 days when she returned and now, though conditions are more relaxed, she still must wear a mask outside and has her temperature checked in restaurants and shopping malls. All Chinese citizens carry a special card which is scanned to check where the person has been; green means you have only been in safe places but orange or red show ‘dangerous places’ the person has visited. Anyone returning to China from overseas now has to go into quarantine for 14 days.

Like many international students, Vivi is enjoying being with her parents and loves eating the cuisine of her country but is finding life distracting around her, especially as her family and friends are going out for dinner to restaurants and going shopping, while she is still having lessons – often until 11.00pm. This sentiment is echoed by Ashley, also in China. She loves having a lie-in, but this can often mean that she does not go outside at all. She would like to start getting up earlier but the lure of the lie-in is just too much! Ashley is also missing the other aspects of life at Bethany, such as cookery classes and Body for Life, the Year 12 exercise programme. Heidi does not miss the exercise, however. She is ‘enjoying sitting down!’

The problems of motivation and distraction are a common area of feedback amongst the international students. John in Hong Kong explained that for him, going back home was associated with holidays, as Christmas, Easter and the summer is usually when our EAL students go back to their home countries. This is a chance to catch up with family and friends and enjoy time together and away from the routine of school and lessons. Having to attend lessons while being back at home is a challenge psychologically.

Alejandra, in Spain, which is an hour ahead of the UK, said that doing all lessons through a screen was very tiring, and that part of the motivation for her was meeting new people and interacting with others face to face.

However, it is gratifying that, thanks to social media, our international students are remaining in touch with their friends and of course, remaining in touch with their teachers. Most of the time that is!