Surviving a pandemic away from home: Lessons for every migrant.

By Sonia / December 12, 2020
pandemic Migrant

 

With the vaccine trials finished and the first woman in the worlds successfully receiving the vaccine it seems that we are nearing the end and that there is a light at the end of the tunnel, however, has this journey been different for migrants across the globe who had to survive a global pandemic hundreds of miles away from their family, friends and motherland?.

 

Dreams of living aboard to study or to start a new work-life have always been exciting and somewhat awe-inspiring for every migrant who has left behind their homeland to move to a new world. However, living in a different country with a different culture, lifestyle and social environment all on your own comes with its own challenges. While technology today has reduced the virtual distance between you and your loved ones, every migrant who has had to leave their country also leaves behind a piece of their heart.

The global pandemic has affected more than just our socio-economic life and proved to be most difficult for individuals whose entire support system is on a different continent during the 21st century’s biggest catastrophe. 

 

Like many, I have been keeping up with news from Ireland and India throughout the pandemic, shocked and helpless as I have seen numbers soar, see the entire world go into a medical epidemic that we haven’t experienced before in our lifetime. Suddenly travelling back home was not just a matter of hours and a few hundred Euros, suddenly I realised the gravity of being a migrant.

 

I know I am not alone in realising these harsh realities, that like me every person enduring the pandemic away from their family has gone through the same thoughts at some point or another, but at long last as the first round of the vaccine rolls out, the question remains has the pandemic changed a migrant’s perception and has it taught us something?

 

Being Self- Compassionate 

 

If there is anything the pandemic has taught me as a migrant, it would be to be more compassionate not only to the struggles of other but also to those of my own, the lack of any familial or economic support structure is further stressed by the expectations we levy on ourselves as migrants, the pressure to succeed professionally, financially and even socially is so ingrained in the minds of those who have moved looking for better opportunities that we forget we also are victims of the situation.

Now as we are entering the new year we must also come to the realisation that It’s okay to feel like you don’t know what to do. It’s okay to not have all the answers. It’s okay to not have it together all the time. At the end of the day you must show yourself the same compassion you show others.

 

Battling Guilt 

 

Even as the vaccine rolls in, it is a reality that not everyone who needs the vaccine might receive it on time, this is even truer for the poorer third world or developing countries. A majority of migrants choosing to immigrate from such third world countries to developed European countries also have access to better healthcare services. The realisation that one’s family may not have the same quality of healthcare or government support has caused many to suffer a situation similar to survivors guilt. 

 

In a situation as helpless as this my only advice would be again to show yourself some empathy, to accept what one cannot change but at the same time not lose hope, sitting hundreds of miles away from your family you can still be a source of mental support, to them and to yourself,  and while it may not be a vaccine, a positive attitude and positive support play a key role in boosting immunity according to a Harvard study.

 

Understanding the value of community 

 

Keeping connected to my own community, maybe it be my fellow college mates or even work friends has been one of the main pillars of support during the pandemic, I have seen individuals become more connected, friends becoming more caring as we all fight battles we didn’t choose.

 

Talking about common worries, frustration and just being there to validate each other’s feelings has gone a long way throughout the pandemic, caring and being part of our community also helped me exercise a sense of contribution especially during a period when most of us feel so helpless. 

 

The pandemic has taught me a lot and as a migrant in Ireland, more than anything it has taught me how important it is to value the community that you have, how much a small group of individuals that may not be your family or even your close friends can help you cope with any situation if you choose to let them.

 

 

 Valuing and employing your resources

 

Throughout the pandemic, I’ve heard about stories of people who had to go back to their home countries and also of those who wanted to go but couldn’t, due to circumstances beyond their control, like not being allowed to fly internationally or not being able to leave their children behind or due to personal health reasons etc.

 

Reflecting back now, as an international community no matter which country we are in need to employ and value the resources at our disposal this may be a formal source like your country’s embassy or informal such as  Facebook groups like expat groups, international students groups,  migrant NGOs etc. the one thing that is clear that it is also very important to know what and where your resources are to get help and assistance. 

 

I have seen communities come together to help one another and witnessed first hand the strength a virtual support group has had on problems any migrant might be facing maybe it will travel queries or even something as simple visa problems, even as we reel back from the pandemic these resources will continue to serve us and should be valued.

 

As an immigrant in Ireland, I dearly cherish my time I spend with my family back home, but from now on it will be even more special, and that is one of my biggest takeaways as a migrant who is miles away from her land. We have suffered the worst as a global community and survived to tell the tale, so let’s make it country and not forget what this event has taught us.

 

 

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Sonia

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