Ireland’s higher education institutions launched a ‘Back to Campus’ initiative, gathering together Covid-19 guidelines to help manage their safe return, after anticipating the arrival of international students during September.
From 2020 onwards, the initiative has provided information on vaccines, testing, and quarantine, as well as a ‘Greet and Transfer’ service that “offers safe transportation from the airport of arrival to their student accommodation in accordance with prevailing public health guidelines.”
Students get access to “free Covid testing and any necessary vaccinations” when they arrive. Meanwhile, the Irish government has promised to provide free health care to international students who become ill as a result of Covid-19.
According to the country’s minister of higher education, Simon Harris, students at all of the country’s eight universities will have resumed their studies by the end of September.
“Part of the strategy for a safe return to campus is the reinstatement of lectures, with some changes to overall numbers and specific mitigation measures,” he stated. “We need to get all of our students and staff back on campus to start the new academic year on the right foot.”
Because of their vaccination status, international student arrivals have had the option of going straight to campus and settling into their new student life, or going to campus to quarantine. For students quarantined at a government-assigned lodging from one of the six South American countries.
A digital and social engagement initiative is one of the arrangements in place for individuals quarantined on campus. This was implemented at the University of Limerick and included Netflix, online parties, and quizzes.
“We undertook a lot of cultural engagement before the students arrived,” said Josephine Page, the university’s director of foreign education.
In order to calculate arrival outcomes in 2021, vaccinations had to be included into the plans.
While students entering the country could easily obtain vaccines (from a chemist or by registering online for an injection at a vaccination center), those who had already been vaccinated needed to know whether their vaccine had been approved by the European Medicines Agency, and their quarantine status was determined by where they were in their vaccine journey.
Once settled, students are required to wear face masks indoors and follow national vaccine passport standards.
Ireland has eased restrictions on indoor activities with a capacity of 100 people (provided those participating is vaccinated) as of September 20, allowing clubs and organisations to return. A six-person ‘pod’ will be allowed in mixed immunity conditions (vaccinated and unvaccinated people).
In the meantime, the number of people who can attend a lecture is restricted to 300. Anything above that must be uploaded to the internet.
While many international students were understandably nervous about their studies overseas, the warm welcome they got as part of the ‘Greet and Transfer’ project helped to put some newcomers at ease.
“I felt incredibly excited, a little terrified, hesitant, and nervous when I left Indonesia and boarded the plane to the University of Limerick,” one Indonesian study abroad student said.
“What if I’m missing certain documents?” says the narrator. What if I don’t get along with the other residents? What if I can’t adapt to the new way of life? All of these worries faded away as soon as I stepped off the plane in Dublin and met the UL Study Abroad team.
“The staff had prepared us well in preparation of our travels, and… during our trip to Limerick, we were well taken care of, making me feel safe and excited to start my new semester.”
Ireland’s HEIs have been anxious to emphasize the importance of overseas students, who bring in roughly €0.5 billion in fees alone each year.
“International students are of strategic importance to all of Ireland’s HEIs and are a major component of the national policy for internationalisation,” Jennifer Cleary, head of International at the Irish Universities Association, stated.
Assuring their safe and orderly arrival would protect national and institutional brand values and allow the higher education sector to progress toward the internationalisation targets and goals set.”
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