Let’s talk about TRAVEL: getting to university in a pandemic
So, you’ve received your offer for Warwick. Congratulations, by the way; you did an amazing job to get here!
One little hiccup, though; we’re in the middle of a pandemic. So, travel is one of the things which is dicey, to say the least.
Precautions need to be taken, self-isolations need to be completed, regulations need to be adhered to, masks need to be worn; the list could take up the entirety of this blog post.
Let’s not do that; instead, let’s break things down a bit, and make some sense of it all.
I’ve just traveled back to the UK (on a VERY stressful and VERY packed 9.5 hour flight, in case you’re wondering), so I thought I could help you figure some stuff out. At the very least, you would know one person who has traveled to the UK recently, so you know what to expect.
Let’s get right to it, then.
I’m an Indian citizen; therefore, according to the UK’s policies on self-isolation, I was mandatorily required to self-isolate for 14 days. Mandatory self-isolation DOES NOT mean you’re bundled away to an institutional facility for 14 days as soon as you step into *insert airport/port/train station you’re arriving at*. You’re allowed to go to your ‘final destination’ in the country and isolate there.
“Wait a minute; that doesn’t make sense.” Hold up, let me explain.
Essentially, UK policy allows for persons entering the country to reach their final destination in the country (Coventry/Leamington Spa for you, mostly) and undergo self-isolation once they have reached this location. So, you can make your way to campus/your accommodation, then begin your 14-day self-isolation period.
Before entering the UK, you are required to fill in a Passenger Locator Form. This form must not be filled more than 48 hours before you are due to arrive in the UK. For example: I flew into Heathrow Airport on the morning of the 28th of August, so I filled it on the 26th. The form asks for contact details, travel history, passport and visa details, your final destination in the UK, and whether you are required to self-isolate in the UK (which you can check here), among other things. Quite straightforward.
Make sure you keep a printout/PDF copy of this form handy with you; once you reach immigration counters, the personnel will scan a barcode that appears on the top, in order to review and confirm the information you’ve filled out and make sure everything’s A-OK.
All these procedures are over and above the normal precautions one should take right now: keep your mask on at all times, keep a bottle of sanitiser handy (most airlines should allow you to carry it in your cabin bag, so that’s no biggie), and keep sanitising your hands at regular intervals. Maintain social distancing; airports have helpful indicators at all points, telling you how much distance you should maintain to be safe.
That’s all there is to it, to be honest with you. I will advise you to keep track of the UK’s policies; they’re changing pretty frequently, so it’d be best just to keep your eyes peeled (I’ve linked the UK government’s COVID-related page here, and the transport-related advisory page here).
I know it seems very daunting, but it isn’t; just a bit more added stress to accompany the general travel anxiety one has when faced with the check-in staff. In hindsight, I really think I was more stressed about the latter. Trust me, I’ve had so many struggles with luggage; it’s like they don’t get the struggles of being a student who CAN’T help but have a 40-kilogram bag.
To conclude, congratulations on getting into Warwick! You will have an amazing experience, although it may not be what you were expecting at the beginning of the year. Travel is complicated, but nothing you can’t figure out.
Whenever things get a bit too complicated and stressful, just take a few seconds to take a few deep breaths, and figure out what it is that you need to do in that very moment. Things will start making more sense once you get out of the panic mode into a (relatively) zen mode.
Safe travels! I can’t wait to “see” you at Warwick!