Surviving social distancing: The international student edition
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Surviving social distancing: The international student edition

Surviving social distancing: The international student edition

As the world springs into action to curb the COVID-19 pandemic, concepts of “social distancing,” “isolation,” and “quarantine” are being put into practice.

Social distancing refers to maintaining a two-metre (six-feet) distance between yourself and others, especially those displaying symptoms of the novel coronavirus. It helps stretch out the gradual rise of infections, ensuring healthcare systems can keep up.

“A lot of us might be relatively healthy and think we might be able to withstand the rigours of an infection, but there’s the concern about spreading it to vulnerable individuals, as well as the pressure this outbreak will place on our health care system,” said McGill University director of Biomedical Ethics Unit Jonathan Kimmelman.

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It’s ok to be this near to boxes, but not people. Source: Maddie Meyer/AFP

Social distancing, isolation, or quarantine?

Many recent mitigation measures adopt social distancing to limit contact between individuals, thus slowing down the spread of the virus. This includes replacing face-to-face meetings with teleconferences, working from home and public gatherings of any scale – whether it is your regular martial arts class, a neighbour’s wedding, an annual music festival, or the sporting event of the year.

Social isolation, on the other hand, is when infected people – or those displaying symptoms –  isolate themselves to avoid spreading the virus to healthy people. It can be considered a form of self-quarantine – which is different from a mandated quarantine enforced by health authorities and the government to curb mass spreading, especially at heights of infection.

Social distancing tips for international students

University students all around the world are being told to stay home as remote learning practices take over. Where does this leave international students?

Likely alone indoors, as they wait for things to tide over. If this is your situation, here are some tips that could ease social distancing.

Implement a tech-first approach — Face-to-face meetings are replaced with teleconferences, office-goers are working from home, and classes are moved online. These tell us that we have the technological capacity and tools to carry out day-to-day activities from home – which should come easy to international students familiar with video calls and cross-border transactions.

Plan a staycation — What you do with your downtime sets the tone for your stay indoors. Watch those movies on your list, read the books you’ve accumulated, and play your favourite video games. Just ensure it’s all done in a balanced manner (and that you still finish all your assignments!)

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Now is the time to Tik Tok, Snapchat and Skype your friends and family! Source: AFP/Eric Baradat

Spend quality time, remotely — Your family may be thousands of kilometres away, but they’re probably spending chunks of time at home throughout this pandemic, too. Use this opportunity to make long video calls. Besides that, you can also catch up with friends back home that you don’t get to speak to as often. Check in with your loved ones, and let them know how you’re coping.

Cook your favourite meals — Remember all those times you wished you had time to cook? Here it is – all the time you need to try new recipes, do a long stew, or bake without occasion. Stock up on dry foods and basic supplies so you can whip up a home-cooked meal. Avoid eating out or ordering food delivery as these involve close human contact.

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You can still chill at the park but practise social distancing responsibly! Source: AFP/Anthony Wallace

Reflect and unwind — It’s a stressful time for many, but by social distancing, we seize autonomy to make our own decisions. The gym may be off-limits, but you can stretch at home or run at your neighbourhood park (with social distancing of course). Church and mosques may be closed, but you can use quiet evenings to meditate or pray alone.

No matter what you choose to do, stay informed, clean, and safe to survive this time unaffected.

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