WHAT HAS BEEN THE IMPACT OF COVID-19 ON THE LIVES AND OCCUPATIONAL BALANCE OF IN TERNATIONAL STUDENTS: AN EXPLORATORY CASE STUDY
Rationale Among the varying groups of individuals affected by COVID-19, international students were amongst the most impacted. The traditional peer supports and university clubs that would enable their integration into the new community were significantly altered due to the COVID-19 lockdowns. The students’ ability to engage in meaningful self-selected occupations were likely to be negatively influenced. Therefore, this exploratory case study sought to understand the impact of COVID-19 on students’ lives and occupational balance. Methods A case study methodology was chosen as this matched the research question, aim and objectives. Additionally, the inductive and interpretive philosophical underpinnings were aligned closely with a case study approach. Three differing methods of data collection were used including questionnaire, semi-structured interview and personal reflective diaries; because of the value to case study methodology of multiple methods of collecting information, as this allows the researcher to create a detailed picture of the lived experience of a phenomenon (Mayer 2001). Data triangulation was utilised to merge themes across the three data sources. Following this, thematic analysis using Braun and Clarke (2006) six steps was completed to allow inductive emergent themes. Key findings Three key themes emerged from the findings: COVID-19’s impact on mental health; adaptation for self-preservation and finding occupational balance. COVID-19’s impact on students’ mental health led the students to seek out appropriate supports, adapting their engagement with meaningful self- selected occupations and using occupation as medicine to maintain their mental wellbeing. Conclusion 3 This study highlighted the multifaceted impact of COVID-19 on the lives of three international students, each completing study at Masters level in one small Scottish university. Each student was forced to adapt to their circumstances, demonstrating remarkable resilience. They built routines around meaningful self-selected occupations to give their life meaning and execute control. Alongside the support of the university, these self-selected occupations functioned as a tool for regulating their mental health. There is the potential for this work to be understood as a pilot for a larger study, to build on these themes and sub-themes, to understand how best to support international students during adverse circumstances.