After weeks of government deferral, students across the country have an answer to the big seasonal question: Can I (legally) go home for Christmas? Clear your calendars, as the news of the “student travel corridor” passes through the multi-media motions, echoed by the ever-reliable news outlet of anxious parents over the phone. Universities Minister, Michelle Donelan MP, has confirmed that “from the 3rd to the 9th [December], in that window, we will create a student travel corridor in which they [students] can go back home”.
This slim window offers a slither of hope for the countless students that have been left in the dark from the outset of the term and, arguably, from the beginning of the pandemic. Reflective of the government’s handling of the pandemic, a plan outlining students’ return to university is yet to be proposed. This lack of clarity has been condemned by Jo Grady, general secretary of the UCU, as a plan which is “riddled with holes”.
Serena, a Romanian film student here in Newcastle, will not be returning home for Christmas due to the isolation periods she would face upon leaving and returning to the country; she said “it’s not worth it if I have to isolate myself for one month”.
When asked what is important to her this Christmas compared to previous years, after a long pause, she responded “I don’t want to think about that right now … to be honest I just want Christmas to be over and wake up in 2021 and go back to my studies, it’s obvious that Christmas will be very different this year”. This, unfortunately, will be the struggle for many international students over the Christmas period, facing the uneasy decision of long periods of isolation, or spending Christmas alone.
It is vital that we recognise this Christmas will not be like any other we have celebrated, but that does not mean that Christmas cannot be enjoyed. To avoid disappointment this Christmas, expectations must be adjusted, and with that, the pressure we often place on ourselves each year must be limited.
Regardless of whether or not you choose to go home this Christmas, lockdown limitations will prevent the standard festivities of yesteryear. As things stand, the big family Christmas will be substituted for WiFi-dependant Zoom festivities, Christmas crackers digitally pulled, webcams adjusted to fit snowman jumpers within the frame. Forget the gifts, forget the stress of a monstrous Christmas dinner that would normally leave us deep in a food-coma. Let’s make Christmas about cherishing those whom we hold dearest.
Feature Image: Pixabay @geralt