She said: “The longest I’ve gone without seeing my family is about four months, but when coronavirus hit, my parents didn’t feel it was safe for me to fly back and before I knew it, there were cases in Europe too.”
As her housemates returned home, Steffi was on her own, studying for her final exams. Many graduates have worries about what comes next after graduation, but Steffi felt the added pressure of waiting to be accepted onto a master’s degree.
If she did not get accepted onto a course, she would not be able to return to her family in China, as they live there on her father’s working visa. She would have to return to New Zealand and start her life from scratch as she no longer has any family or friends there.
“I’d never pin myself as the anxious type, but that time period was definitely the hardest time I’ve been through. Every day seemed so long, and it felt like I was just constantly checking my emails,” she said.
During this time, Steffi was supported by her friends, the majority of whom she has been friends with since her first year, where they all lived on the same floor in the Towers accommodation.
“We stayed close throughout the three years and they have all been my rock throughout this period, always helping me along the way.”
Her supervisor has also been there to support her, checking in to see how she was doing during lockdown as well as being a source of academic support.
Steffi added: “The general vibe on campus was always good, even during lockdown when it was empty, I'd see people while on a run who were smiley and in a good mood which lifted my mood.”
After a few weeks of uncertainty, Steffi found out that she had been accepted to do a master’s in nanotechnology and regenerative medicine at UCL.
Whilst this may not be the way Steffi expected to end her degree, she has said her time at Loughborough has been transformative. Moving to a different country for study can be daunting, but Steffi was excited and open to this new chapter of her life.
She said: “I’m grateful for every bit of my University experience, the ups and the downs.”
Steffi added that it still has not quite sunk in that she has graduated, but she looks forward to being able to celebrate with her family and friends when it is safe to do so. She is also applying for an emergency humanitarian visa so that she can hopefully see her family by Christmas.