Indian students abroad at crossroads

NEW DELHI: Piling up rents, expensive fees for courses which are now entirely online, worried parents back home in India and isolation — lakhs of students living abroad are currently undergoing perhaps what is the most stressful time of their lives as the Covid-19 spread worsens across the world.

Take Kunal Kshirsagar, a 19-year-old undergraduate student living and studying in Manchester, United Kingdom. He’s lost his job in McDonald’s, and his father, the sole breadwinner of the family who is a businessman in Ralegaon, Maharashtra, is now unable to make money due to the lockdown in India.

“It was already going to be difficult for me to pay for my tuition fees and accommodation fees… now it has become even more difficult,” said Kunal. He will not be able to work during the summer as well due to the UK’s lockdown.

Adding to that is the stress of living in an area hard hit by Covid-19. After news came in of UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson testing positive for the coronavirus, Kunal said he was afraid of even going out and buying groceries.

According to data from the Ministry of Human Resource Development, more than 6,20,000 Indians students went abroad in 2018-19.

A few students also said they were having trouble getting money from parents who did not use net-banking and had instead, relied on Western Union. Since physical branches are closed in India, students are now facing fast depleting reserves of money.

Sean D’Souza, a 25-year-old Master’s student living in Coventry said that the sudden proliferation of several WhatsApp groups that all claim to help students leave the country were adding to the confusion.

Moreover, students also had to deal with online classes and assignments in the middle of this, while remaining cut off from friends and family. D’Souza, who also has a sister studying in Leeds, says he’d much rather come back as rents are piling up. What’s more, his parents are worried too, as this is the first time both of them are living away from family.

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