Credit: GG Photographer Ioanna Chrysanthakopoulou

To Glas-stay or Glas-go?

By Rothery Sullivan

An international student explores whether it’s worth it to return to live in Glasgow next semester.

With the announcement from the University that classes in semester two will also be largely online, you may be asking yourself: “Why should I return to Glasgow in January if all of my classes are going to be online again? Is it worth it to come back to Glasgow just to take classes on my laptop in my bedroom?”

As an international student from the US, these questions have been lingering in the back of my mind since the University announced that all of my particular courses next semester would be online. My initial thought process seemed straightforward: if I stayed at home for the rest of the academic year, I would save thousands of pounds on rent, whilst also having the opportunity to work at home (as I’ve been unsuccessful in finding a job here in Glasgow). Financially, it makes sense for me to stay home next semester. Additionally, there’s the risk factor of Covid-19, and while the US is not exactly doing well in relation to cases, being from rural Maine means that staying at home next semester would put me at less risk of getting the virus than living in a city like Glasgow. However, there are four main factors that have gone into my decision to ultimately return to Glasgow next semester, despite the benefits I would get from staying home.

Firstly, I know that my mental health is better when I’m in Glasgow, where I’m in an environment working towards my academic goals. I perform better academically when I’m able to have my own space and be physically surrounded by those working towards the same goals as me. Although online classes have made university work more difficult, being able to access student areas like the library and study rooms have made revision a lot easier. At home, I wouldn’t have these options and could easily see my mental health deteriorate due to not having a dedicated place to focus on my academics and other activities I’m involved with.

Secondly, it’s important to have a stable support system in place, and for me, this support system is in Glasgow where many of my friends are. Although Covid-19 restrictions have made it difficult to meet up in person with friends, I’ve still enjoyed outside picnics and cups of coffee with the people I care about. Being at home would make this difficult since I have very few friends in my hometown, and being in a timezone five hours behind Scotland would make connecting with my non-American friends nearly impossible. I rely on my university friends as they support my goals and inspire me to continue working to be my better self; they also provide social intellectual stimulation, which I’ve found that I need to feel most like myself. Moreover, I have numerous friends who will be graduating at the end of this year, meaning that this next semester will be my last semester studying with them in Glasgow – I don’t want to lose out on this precious time.

Thirdly, I have finally become more involved in societies and clubs in my second year, which has improved my ability to reach out to people with similar interests and get involved in activities that relate to my career goals. While I could participate in some society activities over Zoom, the time difference would make this difficult and I would still miss out on any in-person events that may come in the following months. I’ve established a good weekly routine in Glasgow and discovered a productive balance between academic life and social life; I wouldn’t want to risk ruining this balance by staying home. I also wouldn’t want to disrupt the progress I’ve made in certain societies by being less involved due to my living situation.

Finally, as an international student, I’ll only have the opportunity to stay in Glasgow for another two-and-a-half years, so I don’t want to waste this time being at home. I came to university in Scotland to be immersed in the culture here, and going home for the second time since the pandemic started would only rob me of another precious six months of my university experience. I want to enjoy my time abroad as much as possible, even if it is during a pandemic.However, I’m aware that I’m saying all of this with enormous financial privilege, as I can economically afford to stay here. I know that many other students may be financially struggling, so this decision will be different for everyone. For me, I personally thrive when I’m working towards my goals and surrounded by people who support me, and this is only possible when I’m in Glasgow. However, some may have better support systems at home or find that being in Glasgow isn’t necessary for their mental health and academic performance. I urge everyone to think about the advantages and disadvantages that may come from returning to Glasgow as this decision will be entirely unique for everyone. Some questions to consider are your finances, rental agreements, support systems, academics, safety and overall happiness. Most importantly, I suggest doing whatever overall is best for your mental health; this past year has been difficult enough as it is.


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