Zahida Zar, Student Ambassador from Pakistan, writes about her life in Ireland so far. With highs and lows, she talks about the reality of moving so far away from home.
Choosing to study in a different country during a pandemic– oh my God what was I thinking?! This was the thought in my mind as I stared at the closed doors of the stores in Dublin Airport. I used the airport WIFI to double-check the bus route and left the airport to be greeted by the infamous Irish weather… cold and wet. I must have asked the airport official on duty where the right bus stop was about ten times, but he was very polite each time I asked. From that point onwards, I have only ever been met with smiling faces. I have to say, Irish people are very courteous and helpful.
I started the next day with my online class, worked on some assignments and then did some online grocery shopping. I chatted with my Mom back at home while making dinner for one. Slowly and gradually I adjusted to this new way of life and at the end of my quarantine, I realised that two weeks had passed and I hadn’t felt sad or lonely once.
Online studying is a new way of learning for almost everyone but I must say, the university’s management of the situation here has been amazing. They have kept the students engaged and the teaching efficient. I slowly began to master the art of Zoom and using online platforms to submit assignments— though I have had my fair share of blunders and lots of troubleshooting.
Time to myself
This experience of staying away from home and trying to focus on studies has given me an opportunity to organise myself and work on some of my hobbies that I would have never found the time to do before. One of my hobbies is cooking. I spend my evenings searching for nice recipes, going grocery shopping and then recreating the dishes I find. The quality of food available here in Ireland is amazing. It is also very easy to find Eastern shops here with some authentic spices and meat choices.
Getting some fresh air
Another attraction for me has been the lush green areas everywhere. Going for an early morning or evening walk or simply looking out the window for a few minutes always soothes my eyes. I witnessed the first-ever snowfall of my life here and it was wonderful.
A brief break from lockdown restrictions for the holiday period was a nice change. Christmas decorations really brightened up the city and that festive feeling was definitely in the air.
Lockdown has made it really difficult to socialise, as it has all over the world. I attended the first few weeks of online classes in my home country and, I must admit, the time difference and family commitments added to the burden of studies. I couldn’t be prouder of myself for deciding to come and study here. Sure, there are some dull moments as living on your own can be a little daunting but; self-motivation, support from family, friends and faculty, taking up hobbies and the obvious responsibility to do well in my studies have kept me going.
Studying online and social distancing are the new norms of today. It might take time to adjust to these but with determination and the right environment, the journey gets smoother eventually.
Zahida is currently enrolled in a Masters Degree in Public Health Program at University College Dublin (UCD).