What it’s like living abroad during a pandemic

There’s no denying that the last few months have been challenging for many in the Irish community around the world during the coronavirus pandemic. Niamh Talbot spoke with three people currently living abroad about how they’re coping with everyday life and being away from their friends and family.

While they can’t be here at the moment, many Irish living abroad are feeling the effects of the pandemic. Photo by Anna Shvets via Pixabay

Mark Moloney, a PhD student at St.Andrews University in Scotland, has been living abroad for three years now.

He said, “Being over here has been good and bad. We have much looser restrictions than home so day-to-day life has been pretty close to normal. Especially with the whole “eat out to help out” initiative, we were being encouraged to get out and socialise. But not being able to go home as often or as freely combined with nobody being able to visit me has been difficult.”

Moloney is also entering his final year of his PhD and is feeling the added pressure of the pandemic. “It’s all work and no play so I can feel an element of burnout coming,” he said. “There’s a pressure to catch up on all the time we missed in the lab over lockdown but at the same time there are restrictions in place that have made everything move a bit slower.  Also, the state of the UK at the moment means I’ll probably have to deal with some kind of restricted living until I finish up next November.”

Despite this, he acknowledges he could have things much worse. “I know people who are living in the US or Australia who wouldn’t be able to afford a flight home at the moment even if it was an option. So, I count myself lucky that I’ll be able to get home for Christmas.”

Whilst some people are used to living away from their family, Dylan Talbot is living alone for the first time. He moved to Dubai in January of this year, being hit with a lockdown not long after settling in.

“At the start of lockdown it was very strict over here with a 24 hour lockdown. I found it quite difficult and was missing my family a lot because I was stuck at home on my own and wasn’t going to work. We weren’t allowed to leave our houses at all and I felt much more homesick than I would have if there was no pandemic,” he said. 

However, with Ireland entering into Level 5 for at least 6 weeks, he says he’s actually glad to be where he is. “Life in Dubai feels normal, I can go out whenever, go to the gym, even restaurants and bars are open.” he explained. “ It makes me appreciate being here a whole lot more and doesn’t make me as homesick anymore. My mental health has improved so much being able to get out with my friends and exercise.”

He also noted that the weather makes a huge difference. “In Dubai it’s still bright out and the weather is great. You don’t look out the window and see a dreary day on top of everything else going on in the world. You wake up here and see another beautiful day that makes you want to get up and get out.”

Orla Breen is a student nurse currently finishing up her degree in Southampton. Her life and mental health has been majorly impacted by the pandemic.

She said, “I’ve loved living abroad the past few years. I was always a very anxious person and I think it really gave me the push to put myself out there and grow more confident and independent. That was until the pandemic hit.” 

“I went from living in a house with 6 other students to living in halls on my own. With nursing placement, I wasn’t in a position to study from home like all of my friends, so I feel like I’ve been left behind here. Being such an anxious person, the loneliness hasn’t helped my situation at all,” she said. 

Things have been looking up recently with some positivity on the job front, she admitted.

“I’ll be finishing my degree at the end of this month and luckily have been offered a position to stay on here. I hadn’t planned on staying on living here once I graduated but with so much job uncertainty at home, I decided it’s probably best to stay put here for a while.”

For the time being, she’s going to just have to see how things go. “I’m taking each day as it comes,” she says. “It’s really hard not being in the same country as a lot of your loved ones.”

She said, “It’s the uncertainty that’s the worst, not knowing when you’re going to see your family again.”

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