United Kingdom: Far from home in a pandemic

Naturally, during a global pandemic, the idea of leaving home and travelling abroad may cause stress and anxiety. Yet, hundreds of thousands of international students will arrive in the UK and Ireland this month to begin studying at university. 

The predicted 50% drop in students studying abroad in the UK, due to Covid-19, has not yet materialised – with Scotland reportedly seeing an increase in international students! 

Now is the time to be aware of international students in our midst. Friends International (FI), a close ministry partner of IFES Europe and UCCF Great Britain, is finding that many of these students have more concerns about studying overseas this year. 

Students from China coming to Southampton University shared their feelings with FI staff:  

“Will people discriminate against me because of what people are calling the ‘Chinese Coronavirus’?” Another said: “I’m nervous about coming on my own to another country; will I be able to communicate with people as I’m not confident in English?” 

Some of these are common concerns for any student studying abroad, yet Covid-19 is bringing increasing uncertainty and universities are having to make significant changes. ­Ministry needs among international students are especially intense this year because of the added isolation of social distancing conditions—and those conditions make it especially challenging for ministries to connect with these students. 

A student from France, studying at Cardiff University, shared how their university was changing:  

“The usual start date for our courses has been postponed. The earliest induction date will not be until late October. They will also change the teaching experience: it will be mostly online and small-group teaching. I would say that the uni experience will certainly be different, but all those thorough implementations aim to ensure the safety of everyone. After all, better safe than sorry.” 

Please pray this week: 

  • For international students arriving in their study destinations this month—in the UK and many other countries.  Pray that they would manage the changes well and not be overwhelmed. 
  • For local churches and Christians to make every effort to welcome the new students and to connect with them even if that is online. 
  • For FI staff and Christian students who are offering friendship and faith to these students. Pray that the hospitality schemes, English language classes and Bible studies would all help integrate the students while moving them closer to a saving faith. 

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