Overcoming Guardianship challenges during Covid-19
In this latest blog, Nicky Rudd, Co-founder and Student Co-ordinator here at Ireland’s Eye Language Academy reflects on the IELA Guardianship Service and the challenges staff, students, parents and teachers faced over the past year. From this experience, she looks confidently at the future with optimism and positivity for 2021.
What a year it has been! Who could have predicted the entire planet would go into a lockdown and life as we know it, would change so dramatically?
Many international students, who were in the middle of planning their High School Programmes in Ireland, waited with trepidation to see if they could still attend and how the programme would be managed.
IELA are lucky to work with fantastic Secondary Schools nationwide and have built strong relationships over the years. Working closely with our partner schools, we resumed international student recruitment on our High School Programme and welcomed new High School students to the “IELA Student Family” in late August 2020.
As soon as we were given the green light, our all-female team jumped into action, keen to start the organisation process.
A new way of travelling:
With the ever-changing Covid-19 Guidelines and Restrictions, each student’s arrival had to be carefully planned and arranged. Co-ordinating travel arrangements had dramatically changed since our High School student intake in 2019 so it was a learning curve for all involved.
IELA Host Families are an intrinsic part of the organisational process and their co-operation and understanding was invaluable during this stage of travel arrangements. New quarantine regulations, guidelines on restricted movement and the organisation of pre-departure and post-arrival Covid tests had to be factored into the arrangements. With all these new protocols and procedures came a new level of anxiety, in addition to the normal worry of living in a new country for the first time and beginning life in a new host family unit. It was vital that new students were supported by their guardians, host families and IELA staff members during this very new process.
IELA Team Support:
IELA staff are parents themselves and each student is treated like one of our own. We understand that parents need reassurance while their child is studying overseas, especially during a Global Pandemic! That is why IELA Guardianship Services are exceptional. Our team of student co-ordinators offer support for students and parents when they need it the most. New travel procedures were explained clearly to students, parents and host families in advance of arrival and it was important that everyone worked together to ensure a safe and smooth transition into life in Ireland.
As we know, each country has different international travel restrictions. Making sure everyone was up to date on any changes became a normal part of the process. Inevitably, there were some flight delays, cancellations or amended arrival dates and this all became part of the challenge. With everyone working together, such occurrences were managed efficiently and effectively. IELA staff has always been proud of their organisation and multi-tasking skills!
Each student was met in the arrival hall of Dublin Airport by their designated IELA Guardian and transferred to their new Irish family, all while following Covid-19 guidelines in place at that time (mask wearing, basic hygiene, hand sanitizing and social distancing)
Our wonderful host families welcomed their students to their family unit, ensuring they settled comfortably into their new environment and adapted to Covid-19 restrictions which may have been different in their home country at that time.
Meanwhile, in the lead up to the students’ arrival dates, IELA Team were busy in the background ordering school uniforms, books and communicating with the schools in advance which was a little different than previous years.
While students were following quarantine and restricted movement guidelines, IELA offered an online High School Induction as part of the programme. This gave students a chance to meet other international students located in Dublin and the rest of the country who were also carrying out their 14-day quarantine. Topics discussed ranged from: what to expect on your first day, how to handle homesickness, a review of formal and informal English in Ireland as well as cultural and historical topics.
The first day of school:
The first day of school is a big day in each student’s High School experience and like every other year, IELA student co-ordinators accompanied each student on their first day. Like many other parents around the country, guardians and student co-ordinators had to adhere to all the guidelines and restrictions in place in many secondary schools. Students were assisted with the orientation and navigation of public transport links and were met by school staff who helped them to settle in.
Checking in on the student’s welfare is essential during the first few weeks of school and over subsequent months. Each student met individually with their IELA student co-ordinator /guardian for an informal chat, a walk and a hot chocolate. Students had a chance to express any concerns they had. The IELA Team always offer friendly advice to help students to deal with the daily challenges they may face throughout their time in Ireland, especially during what was to become a challenging and difficult year.
In January 2021, the Irish Government took the decision to close all schools in order to improve the increasing number of Covid cases in the country. Each student had to quickly adapt to remote learning. IELA High School Programme students embraced the changes and fully co-operated with their teachers which made our work much easier!
In February 2021, after 4 weeks of remote learning, it was time to host a Student Welfare check-in which was facilitated online by our very special teacher and Programme Co-Ordinator, Geraldine. It was important for students to come together and share their experience of remote learning and offer tips, while also remembering to smile and do something nice for themselves.
Reflection and what the future holds….
No one could have predicted a Global Pandemic in 2020 and 2021 and we can safely say, always expect the unexpected! During the last 12 months, students have adapted to new ways of learning, submitting homework and learning to live in the ‘new normal’. PCR testing/quarantine and remaining safe within the Government restrictions became the norm for everyone.
Hats off to all our students who embraced the challenges with a smile – you are all made of strong stuff.
Well done and congratulations to everyone for surviving a year none of us will ever forget – Team IELA and students, you all deserve a big round of applause!!!
With the worst behind us and the slow easing of restrictions in Ireland, IELA continue our student recruitment for our High School & Guardianship Programme September 2021 and look forward to welcoming new students to the “IELA Student Family” – with you every step of the way.
IELA Co-Founder and Student Co-Ordinator