A year of opportunity

24 November 2020

Raghujit Narula, Global Head of International and Cross Border, Wealth and Personal Banking, HSBC

The COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted the lives of many people around the world – and international students are no exception. But I hope that despite the challenges, young people will be able to look at the months ahead as a time of opportunity.

I am a huge believer in the power of international education. Leaving India to study in the UK and USA played a vital part in developing my career, but more importantly, it shaped me as a person.

Studying overseas gives you the opportunity to experience a range of different perspectives. While studying is, of course, incredibly important, it’s also about the kind of people you interact with during the experience. They become your friends and networks for life, hugely influencing your view of the world at a very formative stage.

So I think it is a great shame that COVID-19 has deprived many young people who were aspiring to study abroad of the opportunity to experience new cultures. It has made it harder for existing international students to collaborate with lecturers and peers, and, in many cases, disrupted their career plans. Whether forced to return home at short notice or stuck in their dorm rooms, international students have certainly experienced the isolation of lockdown.

It’s no surprise that many international students have chosen to either defer their studies until next year or start their studies at home, with 2021 set to see a significant spike in international study.

But times of crisis often bring about significant innovation. Here at HSBC we have recently been reaching out to students to learn more about their current experiences and how they are adapting to ensure this year continues to be a year of opportunity.

I have been impressed with how creative students have been in finding ways to continue to flourish in their new circumstances – whether that is creating a working space and routine that best suits their study needs, or using video calls to connect with new and existing friends.

Others are acquiring some real-world experience through internships or work experience, or developing their skills through self-directed learning at home. It’s an opportunity for them to discover new interests, passions and hopefully find something that excites and inspires them.

While it is great to see students adapting, as parents we want to help them make the right choices for their future and their current wellbeing. At HSBC we have launched a study abroad hub (opens in new window) (opens in new window) (opens in new window) which provides useful guidance and resources for parents and students looking for advice and support.

While the pandemic has dealt a blow to many plans, this year provides a chance for students to take stock. Whether they opt to defer to gather real-world experience, or begin to study remotely, they can still start to forge their own paths in the world.