DOHA—The first semester for Turkish student Mohamed Dukan at Qatar University was a difficult one. As a new student, he had to adapt to living away from his family in university housing in a foreign country.
Just as he started to settle into his new college life and get to know his roommate, Covid-19 cases soared in Qatar and a complete lockdown was put in place.
“I had to stay in the housing for 24 hours. The same routine was repeated over and over again,” Dukan said. “I was depressed. I felt that I didn’t want to do anything. Some days I couldn’t even get out of bed or attend the online classes.”
Before the Covid-19 pandemic, living in student housing was a way of creating social bonds that eased the feelings of homesickness, especially for new students like Dukan.
Now, with many universities in the Gulf region opting for hybrid or full-time online learning, many aspects of the students’ experiences changed, including the housing.
Mohammed Siddig Magzoob, acting director of Qatar University Student Counselling Centre, says students in general experienced an increased level of anxiety about their health and future because of the pandemic. However, international students in Qatar had additional stressors.
“International students had concerns about their future and whether or not there will be a possibility to travel to see parents in the vacation, while those who traveled were anxious about the possibility of being unable to return to Qatar due to travel restrictions,” Magzoob said.
Unable to Leave the Dormitory
Magzoob also noted a sense of boredom among students as they were unable to leave the dormitory, or even eat out.
As part of the procedures to contain the spread of the virus, Qatar University asked local students to move back with their families, while international students were asked to evacuate. An exception was made for students who were unable to travel back home because of flight restrictions, as well as those who couldn’t continue their online study in their home countries due to poor Internet connections or other reasons, according to Hassan Ali Hassan, head of the Male Students Housing Department at Qatar University.