Sun, sea and hand sanitizer

After months spent cooped up in our own houses, and with the COVID-19 pandemic drastically limiting places we can visit, it’s only natural for us to soon get sick of being surrounded by the same four walls. When the UK government removed Spain from its exemptions list on the 26th July, many Brits saw this as the perfect opportunity to indulge in some relaxation time.  

“Let’s face it; it’s not exactly an easy-going utopian-Esque holiday when you have got to wear a mask 24/7, always be aware of social distancing and queue for hours just to sunbathe.”

Trade and tourism were quickly revived with the sudden boom in holiday sales from travel companies such as TUI and lastminute.com. Despite face masks and social distancing still being mandatory, it seemed like a reasonable compromise for many when looking for some blissful escapism. But was this the right decision? 

Right now, it appears to be the latter. Dreams of sun-lounging and immersing yourself in Spanish culture came crashing down after a spike in coronavirus cases prompted lockdown to be reintroduced. Around 1.4 million brits scrambled to return home, only to have to self-isolate for 14 days upon return. Understandably such a bombshell announcement has been met with huge frustration and disappointment by many; who feel like they weren’t given enough time to make the appropriate preparations for these new regulations. Not to mention playing havoc with work arrangements and family get-togethers which could, unfortunately, lead to more serious consequences like a dismissal.

However, this sentiment of chopping and changing with the Foreign Office’s restriction list doesn’t just play havoc with holidaymakers. Modern Languages students who had just set off on their year abroad, ready to enjoy what is generally advertised as ‘the best year of their lives,’ had their dreams mercilessly ground to a halt. Being a language student myself, I share that yearning to experience a different way of life and appreciating all the little hidden quirks a new country has to offer. Clichéd visions of myself meandering down the Champs-Elysee with a croissant in hand or salsaing the night away, with a jug of sangria, on the shores of Malaga frequently sprang to mind amidst summative exam season as some impetus to power through an exhaustive reading list.  

At present, though, (cue the tiny violin), those dreams seem to be hanging by a thread. After the UK added both France and Spain to its 14-day quarantine list, it meant that my university was no longer authorising travel to those countries. So, unless it changes soon, I guess I’m stuck in a constant limbo; are coronavirus cases going to decrease meaning travel will be authorised or will I have to make do with a virtual year abroad from the confines of my four walls? Only time will tell for us language students. 

 Keeping all that’s been discussed in mind, are these sudden additions to the restriction list justifiable? At the moment, this growing list seems to be causing huge financial and mental strain not just for Brits jetting off on their holidays but also for students eager to practice their spoken language skills in the most effective way possible.  

“To miss out on what could be a student’s big break in their degree is, in my view, one compromise too far.”

Well, one has to ask themselves whether traveling abroad for a holiday is worth it anyway? Let’s face it; it’s not exactly an easy-going utopian-Esque holiday when you have got to wear a mask 24/7, always be aware of social distancing and queue for hours just to sunbathe. With the pandemic still on-going, is the constant paranoia about staying safe and not catching the virus worth it just for a change of scenery? If the whole point of a holiday break is to relax, which seems impossible given the gravity of the situation, maybe it might be better to put a rain check on that holiday resort for the time being so you can properly appreciate it later. 

For languages students, however, perhaps there should be a bit more leeway. And that might be my own degree bias coming through (encore for those violin strings!) but for many students, working or studying abroad is pivotal for developing fluency in their target language. Thus, to be deprived of that opportunity can leave them at a disadvantage compared to past students’ oral ability. To miss out on what could be a student’s big break in their degree is, in my view, one compromise too far.  

Perhaps the Government’s restriction list should show more leniency towards students just wanting to utilise their newly acquired language skills in a more professional setting. With mandatory social distancing and proper hygiene maintained, I see no reason why this option cannot be explored for some Universities. 

By Katie Heyes

Image: by Anna Shvets via Pexels free photos

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