International students living in Trinity accommodation have been left scrambling to find a way home – with several reporting huge “stress and anxiety” and many hitting out at the College – after Trinity last night instructed them that they need to vacate their homes by tomorrow.
Interviews conducted by The University Times today with eight international students – spread between campus, Halls, Binary Hub and Kavanagh Court – reveal widespread anxiety among a cohort given 48 hours’ notice that they’ll need to leave their Trinity accommodation.
All eight students criticised the timing of a College-wide email – sent last night at 7.59pm – that informed them of the decision, with one labelling the move “unprofessional” and another asking: “What the hell were they thinking?”
Reuben Lim, a master’s student in management living in Kavanagh Court – the luxury student accommodation complex linked to Trinity – told The University Times that the decision is a “ridiculous idea”, adding: “I see this as very unprofessional behaviour, especially coming from a university that claims to be a very reputable university.”
“I have a really bad impression of this university”, Lim said. “I just find it incredible that this was signed off by four high-level people in the university.”
Most people currently housed on-campus are there for a very particular reason. Mine is that I cannot physically leave everything at the drop of a hat, while others are protecting their grannies’ lives
Lim, who’s flying home to Singapore on Thursday morning, said that “this is all done under the pretext of protecting students from the coronavirus, but it actually amplifies the situation, because a lot of these people are actually just going to start moving around Dublin looking for alternative accommodation”.
He said his flights are “really really expensive, and Trinity’s not even offering any sort of financial subsidies to help pay for the flights”.
In an email statement to The University Times, Thomas Deane, a Trinity media relations officer, wrote: “This was a very difficult decision and the gravity of it reflects the rapidly evolving situation, but it was taken on medical advice and with our students’ health and wellbeing in mind.”
Meanwhile, Katherine McQuade – a third-year student history and English student living in Binary Hub – said she started “freaking out” when she saw the email. “I can’t leave by Wednesday”, she said. “I have to be here by Saturday morning. That was the earliest flight my mom and I could find that wasn’t egregiously expensive.”
McQuade, a US-born student, asked: “What the hell were they thinking? Forty-eight hours to get out for international students?”
“This whole situation has been so mishandled”, she said.
Julianna Lynch, a fourth-year BESS student from Seattle, living in Goldsmith Hall, told The University Times in an email: “Due to the last minute nature of Trinity’s email informing “overseas” residents to vacate within 48 hours, we’ve all had to book last-minute flights at extraordinarily high prices.”
“Most people currently housed on-campus are there for a very particular reason”, she wrote. “Mine is that I cannot physically leave everything at the drop of a hat, while others are protecting their grannies’ lives or choosing to self-quarantine after exposure to an infected family member. Trinity gave no option for many of us with niche reasons for remaining on campus.”
The risk for me is that I go home, I could contract something in an airport, and I could take it back to my parents, who are both in the risky age bracket
Felix Vanden Borre, a Belgian first-year history and political science student living in Halls, said: “I think that me and other international students would be safer here, but I have the feeling that Trinity doesn’t want to have either the responsibility or they don’t want to spend the money on their international students that want to stay.”
He said that “I have an online exam on Thursday, and I’m expected to have left Halls by Wednesday. But how are we supposed to study and work if we’re basically evicted from where we live in two days or less?”.
Aditi Shukla, an Indian student studying for a master’s in management and based in Kavanagh Court, told The University Times that “I am really stressed, I’m anxious, I couldn’t sleep last night”.
Shukla, who meets the criteria to remain in Trinity, but has not heard back from the College with confirmation that she’ll be allowed to stay, added: “We have nowhere to go – it’s either here or you are homeless. If you have anxiety issues, I think it was really insensitive of the College to put out an email with that timing and with those deadlines.”
If someone in the building has got it and hasn’t realised, then large swathes of us are going to have it, and then we’re being sent out into the wider populus
London-born master’s student Peter Read, who resides in Kavanagh Court, said “the risk for me is that I go home, I could contract something in an airport, and I could take it back to my parents, who are both in the risky age bracket. That’s the real concern for me”.
“I’ve now lived here during this in the last week or two”, Read said. “I’ve still been living in Kavanagh Court with 300 people. If someone in the building has got it and hasn’t realised, but has used the front door, then large swathes of us are going to have it, and then we’re being sent out into the wider populus.”
For international students in Halls, the situation has left many “in a state of greater stress and anxiety”, Mary Kedrowski, a first-year European studies student from California, told The University Times in an email. “I have to pack up or store my entire life in the space of only a few days while also searching for a flight that won’t end up being cancelled – it shouldn’t be like this, with all this stress.”
Sara Rinaldi, a second-year student of clinical speech and language therapy, also lives in Halls. Rinaldi, whose home is in the Netherlands, said last night’s news “was kind of like having the ground taken from under your feet”, adding: “They only gave us two days. I thought that was pretty insane and quite shocking.”
“It was absolutely ridiculous that they didn’t even offer an alternative – unless you met certain criteria.”
Update: 19:20, March 17th, 2020
At the time of this article’s publication, Trinity had not responded to a request for comment. The College has now responded, and the piece has been updated accordingly.
Tara Kent, Ciaran Molloy and Faye Curran also contributed reporting to this piece.