This is a research case study focused on the investigation and process to find out what kinds of consequences COVID is causing on international students’ lives.

MY role

I was responsible for the entire project from elaborating the briefing, objectives and structure to recruiting, conducting interviews, making survey and storytelling.

Understanding the Context

The coronavirus pandemic has brought singular situations to people across the world. But how being someone studying overseas can differentiate your situation even more? 

That’s the question that led me to elaborate this case study by using UX research methods and processes.

The objective – To understand international student stories, objectives and kinds of consequences coronavirus brought to their lives.

the approach



Secondary Research



39 Responses
06 Nationalities

affinity map

04 Main Topics


04 International students based in Australia and Argentina



Observing Behaviours

As quarantine measures started taking place, the opportunities to be in person with international students have been enormously diluted.

In order to better understand my target audience, I first started following international students’ group discussions on mediums such as Facebook, Telegram, WhatsApp, Discord that I observed conversations around COVID-19 and its consequences.

I have noticed that regardless of everyone’s unique situation, some topics always used to come up quite frequently. That helped me shape a list of hypotheses and plan my future steps, choosing the right methodology.


List of hypotheses created based on my observations on international students’ discussions and conversations on the internet.

Visa issues


Lack of support

Dissatisfaction with online classes

getting a general idea

I created a questionnaire so I could get data from various students in different realities to have a better understanding
of what they are facing. 

The survey has been taken by 39 international students from Brazil, Colombia, Hong Kong, India, Taiwan, Mexico living in Australia, Canada, Ireland, New Zealand, Taiwan and UK.

The questions were focused on the reason for studying overseas, if the pandemic impacted different aspects of their lives and in which ways.


Have not had their visa process impacted


Have had their finances impacted


Have had their health impacted


Have had their classes impacted

synthesizing data

After getting the data from the survey, an affinity mapping has been done to gather and group responses from open questions based on their similarities.

online classes

Most responses stated the change from face-to-face to online classes, comparing the consequences their learning had as well as the overall experience.

“The classes aren’t face to face and some have a shorter duration. Some connection problems have bothered the classes and even exams”

“I didn’t have more in person classes. In terms of learning was bad, but it was better to work ’cause I had more mobility during class hours” 

“Everything is online, lose track of time, difficult to manage time zones”

“Online courses, lack of engagement from professors”

“All classes have gone online. Don’t live the same experience as if I was face-to-face and the quality significantly decreased. I didn’t like it, but I can’t change all that…”

“[…] Main purpose of me coming here is to get the multicultural experience which I am not getting it properly now. Couldn’t able to make friends from online”


Students and their partners had not only their sources of income impacted due to job loss but also their savings and financial planning.

“My husband lost his job, we’ve had only my salary”

“It was the period I worked the most and most jobs came up for me”

“it affected my savings, I spent money I had saved and it was destined to other things”

mental heath

Subjects related to mental health were very present in the responses. The word “anxiety” was by far the most commonly used being followed by “stress”.

“It affected mentally, depression, panick attacks”

“Mentally tired and anxious. I lost weight because of the meal reductions.”

“Anxiety crisis, headaches because of stress and melancholic days due to the situation that affects us regardless financial conditions and countries”

“The main thing was my mental health, resulting in the physical as well. A lot of stress, nervosism and anxiety”

“It affected mentally, depression, panic attacks”

Unforeseen events

Although difficult to fit in a specific cluster, these unforeseen events encompass some of the singular situations international students are having to overcome.

“My visa took too long to be approved, affecting my time of studies”

“I’ve had to cancel my ticket already bought to Brasil, changing my plans […]”

“I can’t apply to my partner’s work permit visa because we’re not married. Due to the pandemic he couldn’t move to Canada for us to get married and now it’s risky for me to go back to Brazil to get married and not enter Canada again[…]”

“The biometric has been closed for 37 weeks and I’m still waiting to reopen. When I applied the visa, the whole process had an estimate of 16 weeks. A long wait”

“It closed my previous school and I was with an implied status”

Secondary research

” … [Coronavirus] can also live on a lot of surfaces for hours, so people can pick it up on their hands and infect themselves when they touch their face, something the average person does 20 times an hour.”

Coronavirus Explained – Netflix

diving deeper

The insights generated from the survey were very valuable, but I knew I could explore better the topics exposed and dive into specific situations that are significant to each individual (vide “unforeseen events” cluster) and understand how they feel about it.

Although scheduling and recruitment were not easy, I have conducted 4 interviews with international students. Conscious that coronavirus might have caused problems, the conversation was handled measuring how open and willing to speak about determined themes each person looked comfortable with, being careful when approaching sensitive subjects, starting from general questions towards specific ones.

will, 30


Unemployed, Will got concerned about not being able to stay in the country resulting in poor sleep quality and stress. Some family members got COVID but avoided mentioning not to worry him.

He also couldn’t get a benefit from the government to help him pay rent due to technical issues in their system. He saw himself forced to move from Melbourne to Perth to accept a job offer.

All these situations combined created a disappointment about his status in the country and how he perceives himself in society.

Fortunately for Will, today he is happier with his new job than with the one he lost because of COVID, thus, pursuing his objective to stay in the country and improve his language skills.

Giovani, 29


The longest period Giovani had to wait for a visa response throughout his time in Australia.

The lack of life he felt in the city and in his work environment made him physically and emotionally down.

Same as Will, Giovani couldn’t get the benefit, although the reason for his ineligibility came from a positive change: he ended up getting more hours and increasing his income during the pandemic.

Initially, after having done internship in two countries: Germany and United States, Giovani wanted to go to Australia to continue having experiences living overseas, although now, he waits for his Permanent Resident visa.

Ariana, 39


To save money and time, Ariana decided to go to Argentina to study medicine rather than in Brazil.

She couldn’t be able to manipulate tools through practice class, although she enjoys that classes have gone online to review content.

Having to operate her appendicitis during the pandemic, she faced several situations such as being in pain and avoiding going to the hospital.

Despite her getting a permanent residency visa that grants access to the public health system, she opted to do the surgery in a private one as the public had many COVID cases.

Henri, 38


COVID didn’t have a major impact in Henri’s life. In general, his routine, health remained the same.

His online classes came for him in a good time: completely disinterested in his studies, Henri mostly wants to focus on his work while listening to class and getting his PR as soon as possible which is his main objective.

The English proficiency test required for his process had some reductions of spots available, making him wait a longer time than expected.


It is curious to notice some answers go opposite to common sense. The pandemic caused problems in most situations although there were people who did not have major impacts. Not every hypothesis was proven to be accurate as most students haven’t had changes in their visa process as well.

By the time you’re reading this, a while has passed and the data and interviews cover a determined period. Many things might have already changed in their lives.

The project pays homage to the courage and resilience of every student who is going through beyond the natural challenges of living overseas because of COVID.


Among all the steps to make this project possible, the one that required more work was the interviews. The recruitment and scheduling were very challenging.

I’ve realized how difficult is to categorize such distinguished life situations. I believe UX techniques help us get where we want rather than delivering the results themselves. It is up to us, designers, to understand why, when and how to use each one of them.

A big thank you to the Unsplash community for the amazing pictures and every student who made this project possible.