International connections during the pandemic – a student perspective


October 7th, 2020

Now more than ever it is important to stay connected to those around us but also those across borders.  So earlier this year U21 decided to offer students the opportunity to make new Global Connections without leaving their own country.

In August 2020 U21 launched Global Connections, a virtual ‘pen pal’ scheme for the 21st century. By putting individual students in touch with those from different universities and nationalities across the U21 network, participants had the opportunity to learn about other countries and cultures by connecting with students around the world.

Three students from across the globe, Marlene, Rebecca and Renan tell us more about their experiences as Global Connections participants:

“The year 2020 has seen a few surprises, with the COVID-19 pandemic being arguably the most ‘impactful’ crisis that has arisen across the globe. Many have faced movement restrictions, loneliness, physical and mental health problems, domestic abuse, shortage of food, among other critical consequences. These issues are not only a local concern, but also on a global scale. Nonetheless, the strengthening of international connections seems like a positive initiative that may help people from around the world to overcome the effects of the pandemic.

That has been in our case! We are three students with different backgrounds who have been put in contact through Universitas 21’s Global Connections programme: Marlene Teo, 17, Malaysian, studying BA International Communications Studies at the University of Nottingham, in Malaysia; Rebecca Reece, 20, English, studying BA Philosophy at the University of Birmingham, in the UK; and Renan Motta, 31, Brazilian, studying MSc International Law & Business at the University College Dublin, in Ireland.

In today’s society, we no longer have to rely on face to face contact to connect with others since we can use technology to communicate even overseas. Our paths have crossed due to the Universitas 21 initiative and our interest to feel more connected to people during the pandemic.

Whilst the three of us live in diverse parts of the world, our experiences with the pandemic is what we all have in common. It is in the definition of ‘pandemic’ that the virus is a global issue. We can all agree that this lockdown has made us see the real value in connection with others online.

We have all utilised technology (and continue to as the pandemic is not yet over) to study, work, and socialise. And this common ground – that we are three students who are all experiencing a global health emergency these last few months and counting – is what brings us together, beyond our different lives. We can value the way our modern world allows us to connect and continue ‘life’ in a new ‘normal’, increasing our appreciation for both in-person and virtual relationships.”

Renan Motta (top left), Rebecca Reece (top right), and Marlene Teo (bottom)

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