Studying in London During The Global Pandemic_International Student Blogger_Bunleng Pheap_Bunleng out in the London snow-featured image

We all started 2020 with the most horrendous global pandemic. It paused and halted every aspect of our lives. The Covid-19 outbreak has taken away millions of lives. It disrupted our activities as well as the goals we set out to accomplish. The thing is, we can either succumb to the nightmare this virus has brought, or we find ways to adapt and rise above it.

Getting from Cambodia to London is the furthest I have ever travelled. As a matter of fact, it is the first time that I flew out of Asia. I arrived in London in late September 2020 to undertake my MA in Social Media & Digital Communication, all excited, nervous, and uncertain of what the whole year will be like, notably joining the university online amidst the global pandemic.

Adapting to online learning

Before coming here, I worked in different NGOs for a couple of years. Getting back into academia took me yet another learning curve; not finishing reading before classes has made me realize how consuming reading is! But after working on my time management and getting myself to read more often, I find myself going to classes ready and prepared.

As a postgraduate student, this pandemic has caused numerous challenges to me and I believe it’s the same case for most of you too. Instead of having a ‘traditional’ experience, all of my classes are entirely delivered online. However, online learning hasn’t been as bad as I expected after all. My first semester went quite well as I learned to adapt to the online lectures quite quickly. There were some hiccups and difficulties initially, but there is nothing much I could do to change the situation. Besides succumbing and feeling overwhelmed by the world’s volatility, I discover ways to adapt and figure out a good routine and flexibility for myself. I strongly believe you can do too.

Starting a new degree online in a completely foreign country did take quite some time to get to know other classmates. Though the first semester went by quickly, I am glad that so far, I have managed to make some good friends within and outside my course. I managed to take part in various activities both academic and outside of classes (following government guidelines). By building connections and making friends with them, I am struck and amazed by their specialties, global outlook as well as their optimism and passion in pursuing their master’s program. I understand that it is hard to form friendships when we are restricted from physically seeing each other but that does not mean we should not make friends. There are many online alternative apps that we can utilize to keep us connected with one another.

Lockdown activities

To clear my head, I like to walk in the parks alone or with friends whenever it’s allowed. London is just an entirely walkable beautiful city with many green spaces. In fact, 40 percent of London is public green space, meaning that there is always a park nearby no matter where I go. Taking a break from study and walking in the park has been significantly helpful in keeping my stress at bay. My most favorite places so far are Regent’s Park and Primrose Hill. They are huge and beautiful plus it’s not too far from Wembley, where I currently stay.

Wembley Park
Wembley park. You can also the Wembley stadium arch in this photo. I can literally see it from my kitchen window. It’s always lit with colourful lights whenever there is a match or event.
Regents park
Regent’s Park. Nothing takes my stress away better than seeing all these birds and nature.

Regents park swans

Sunset at the Regent’s ParkSunset at the Regent’s Park

 

Primrose Hill

Connecting with fellow students

As a Cambodian recipient of the Chevening scholarship, I also remain in touch with other Cambodian scholars across the UK. Although we cannot meet each other in person due to the current nationwide lockdown, we sometimes arrange online catch-up meetings to check on one another. The connection we are maintaining during this pandemic reminds me that we have each other; there is always someone there to reach out to when needed. It gives me an enormous sense of belonging and unity, especially during this difficult time. We have recently discovered an app called “airtime” where we all gather to either sing karaoke or watch a show. It’s pretty fun to be frank. So for those who are bored and looking for fun activities, perhaps you can try this out.

Airtime screenshot

Airtime app

Keeping healthy during lockdown

Outside of academics and keeping in touch with friends either online or offline, I enjoy cooking, listening to instrumental & Bob Dylan’s music as well as meditating. Perhaps these are the most helpful activities I have employed so far during the lockdown to keep both my mental and physical health in check. Keeping my body and mind healthy is essential during this pandemic, so I have been adopting a healthy lifestyle since I arrived here. By having a balanced diet and regular exercise, I find myself refreshed and ready to cope with my study workload. Meditation is also key here. More or less, I attempt to sit and meditate for at least 10 minutes a day before bed. It is a bit hard to maintain but it is worth practicing. Since there are different meditation techniques, I would recommend this ‘Insight Timer’ app for those who are new and interested. Link here.

Insight Timer app

That should be all for this blog post, and I hope you’ve enjoyed reading it so far. Feel free to reach out to me if you need to chat or ask questions. Remember, we are all in this together! This time shall pass. Peace 🙂

 

For more insights from international students studying at the University of Westminster and living in the heart of London, please visit International Student Blogs.

#WeAreTogether #WeAreWestminster @uniwestminster

Bunleng Pheap
Bunleng Pheap

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