Leaving or Staying “Home” in a Time of Rupture

International Students’ Experiences of Loneliness and Social Isolation during COVID-19

Authors

Keywords:

International students, COVID-19, Loneliness, Social isolation, Rupture, Scotland, Qualitative

Abstract

During COVID-19, international students were faced with the decision of remaining in their country of study or returning to their home countries, with little knowledge of when they would next be able to return or leave. Both choices left the students vulnerable to feelings of loneliness and social isolation. This paper examines how international students at a Scottish university experienced and navigated leaving or staying “home” and how loneliness and social isolation characterised these experiences. We further contextualise these experiences through Holbraad et al.’s (2019) prism of “rupture”. The data were generated between February-July 2021 through semi-structured focus groups and qualitative questionnaire comments and were analysed through Thematic Analysis. We discuss three themes: 1) Liminal Friends and Strangers, 2) Sense of Home and Family, and 3) Staying or Leaving the Country. The study contributes to the expanding body of research on experiences of loneliness and social isolation amongst international students.

Author Biographies

Linnea Wallen, Queen Margerat University, Edinburgh

LINNEA WALLEN, BSc (Hons), is a Lecturer and PhD Candidate in Sociology in the Division of Psychology, Sociology & Education at Queen Margaret University, Edinburgh, Scotland. Her major interests lie in the areas of museum community engagement work, memory and peer assisted learning methodologies. Email: LWallen@qmu.ac.uk    

Dr Olivia Sagan, Queen Margaret University, Edinburgh

OLIVIA SAGAN, PhD, is a Professor in Psychology in the Division of Psychology, Sociology & Education at Queen Margaret University, Edinburgh, Scotland. Her major research interests lie in the areas of phenomenology of loneliness, lived experience of mental ill-health, narrative and phenomenological methodologies. Email: OSagan@qmu.ac.uk

Mhairi Scally-Robertson, Queen Margaret University, Edinburgh

MHAIRI SCALLY-ROBERTSON, MRes (Psychology) is a Research Assistant in the Division of Psychology, Sociology & Education at Queen Margaret University, Edinburgh, Scotland. Her major interests lie in the areas of diversity, equality and inclusion, intersectionality and gender-based violence. Email: MRobertson2@qmu.ac.uk

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Published

2024-01-04

How to Cite

Wallen, L., Sagan, O., & Scally-Robertson, M. (2024). Leaving or Staying “Home” in a Time of Rupture: International Students’ Experiences of Loneliness and Social Isolation during COVID-19. Journal of International Students, 14(1), 403–423. Retrieved from https://ojed.org/index.php/jis/article/view/5106

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Section

Research Articles (English)

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