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How to survive living away from home during the pandemic

Living away from home can be exciting in normal times, but can become a real challenge during a pandemic. If you’ve got friends and family in another part of the country—let alone the world—you can suddenly feel quite isolated. But never fear. We’ve got all the advice you need, from how to keep your documents up to date to feeling like a local.  

Keeping your documents up to date

Living in the UK and unsure what to do following Brexit? The EU Settlement Scheme allows individuals and families from the EU, EEA or Switzerland to allow you to stay. You need to apply by 30 June 2021, and usually have been living in the UK by 31 December 2020. For more information, read the government guidance on settled and pre-settled status.

You can also use the UK Visa and Citizenship Application Servcies to apply to continue living in the UK—there’s no need to do it from your own country. Visit UKVCAS and type in your postcode to find a service point near you. Make sure to keep hold of documents such as bank statements, utility bills and tenancy agreements in case you need to provide them.

If you’re living elsewhere, advice on renewing your documents will vary depending on what country you’re in and how long you’re planning to stay. But contacting your embassy should give you the answers you need. 

Dealing with homesickness

Understandably, you might not have much interesting news for your family stuck at home all day. But keeping in touch is important for your wellbeing. Try mixing up your family video calls to keep them fresh. Vary the weekly quiz with a scavenger hunt where family members search for particular items around the home—great for any kids playing. Or play an online version of a board game classic like Monopoly. 

If you haven’t done so yet, also consider contacting an old friend. You’re probably not going to have a better chance to re-connect with people you grew up with, so use this time to call someone you’ve been meaning to check in on. They’ll no doubt appreciate it, and chances are they’ll be going through a similar experience to you. 

Feeling like a local 

Just because the bars and restaurants are closed doesn’t mean you can’t keep in touch with your local community. There are lots of online groups you can join, many of which cater to migrants living abroad. Facebook is a good starting point, with groups like I Love London designed to help you feel at home if you’re based in the English capital. 

Apps like Nextdoor connect you to people in your surrounding area. Users regularly post updates on what’s going on in the neighbourhood, and it’s a great way to feel a part of the local community. The Meet Up app is another popular one. Previously groups would physically get together according to their interests, but they’re still doing lots online, from book groups to Zoom karaoke.  

Getting practical support 

There are plenty of websites you can turn to for advice if you’re living abroad during the pandemic. The independent charity Settled was set up by EU citizens in 2019, and provides free information and support in different languages to EU citizens in the UK. 

The East European Resource Centre aims to help migrants from central and eastern Europe live fulfilling lives in London. While Here for Good provides protection and reassurance to European citizens in the UK post-Brexit

Keeping active 

Studies have shown that we’ve been less active in the current lockdown compared to the first. Perhaps that’s not surprising considering we’re in the middle of winter. After all, an early morning stroll is less appealing in the swirling snow. But you can take classes in everything from yoga to dance online, so don’t feel like you have to brace the cold. 

It’s easy for the energy levels to dip as we struggle on through the pandemic, but try to keep them up. A great motivator can be to join a running or walking group and aim to reach a certain target. You could even combine it with raising money for charity. The Step into Spring campaign, for example, is challenging people to walk 10,000 steps a day in March for Marie Curie. Having such goals for a good cause can really help focus the mind. 

Managing your emotions

Everyone is feeling vulnerable right now and no-one has easy answers, so don’t be hard on yourself if you’re struggling. The important thing is having someone to talk to, whether it’s via a video screen or text. If you’re feeling anxious try not to watch or listen too often to the news, as this can increase your feelings of unease. Practise mindfulness, or slow, deep breathing, if you ever feel overwhelmed. 

Although it’s not easy at a time like this, try to focus on the positives by keeping a gratitude diary. Write at least one thing you’re grateful for at the end of each day, even if it’s just a meme your mate sent that made you laugh. And finally, never forget the old adage: this too shall pass. 

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2021-02-16

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