Rashid Al-Heidous believes the pandemic provides a chance to build skills and “take a deep breath”
While most Qatari nationals headed home in March as the scale of the Covid-19 pandemic became apparent, some decided to stay where they were.
One of them is Rashid Al Heidous, a 23-year old student from Doha, and an alumnus of Qatar Foundation (QF). When the pandemic took hold, he decided to stay in West London, where he has been studying Nanomaterials at Imperial College London since September last year.
For Rashid – who graduated from QF partner university Texas A&M University at Qatar last year, with a Bachelor of Science in Chemical Engineering – the choice to stay in the UK capital, a decision he made at the end of March, was a relatively easy one because of his studies.
I don’t think there is a ‘correct’ place to be safety-wise. The facts are that there’s no vaccine or remedy yet, and the best way to deal with it is to stay indoors.
“I don’t think there is a ‘correct’ place to be safety-wise,” he says. “The facts are that there’s no vaccine or remedy yet, and the best way to deal with it is to stay indoors.
“Because of this, staying indoors here [in London] or in Doha is the same.”
Rashid explains that, when he made his decision, he was also thinking of his parents. “I also didn’t want to be a potential danger to my family,” he said.
“Finally, if at any time the university resumes normal operations it will be much easier for me to continue [from London],” he says.
Rashid first heard about COVID-19 in mid-January. “I thought at that time that it would be similar to the SARS and MERS outbreaks; alarming but short lived,” he says. However, that prediction, of course, turned out to be wishful thinking, and the UK’s death rate is now the worst in Europe.
Society as a whole has a very valuable chance to see first-hand how things don’t last
Rashid, like millions across the UK, is passing his time quietly, combining his online course work with some leisure activities. “The days are uneventful. There isn’t much to do aside from indoor activities, so I usually spend my days doing research work, watching shows online, cooking and reading,” he says,
Technology has helped him stay in touch with family and friends in Qatar, as he says: “I have frequent video calls with my family and friends back in Doha in addition to connecting with my cohort here in London virtually, so I don’t feel alone.”
Being away from family is even more difficult during Ramadan, but it’s something that Rashid is coping with. “I thought that Ramadan would be tough,” he says. “And the heat we have had in London is quite something, even for someone who comes
from Doha. But I turn the air-conditioning on and stick to my daily activities which occupy most of my time.”
I have found the lockdown a rare opportunity to take a deep breath and improve on my time management, developing my professional skills via online courses, and generally thinking about the meaning of life.
In terms of the overall effect of the pandemic, Rashid is optimistic. “Personally, I have found the lockdown a rare opportunity to take a deep breath and improve on my time management, developing my professional skills via online courses, and generally thinking about the meaning of life, which I think is a good thing to do from time to time.
“Society as a whole has a very valuable chance to see first-hand how things don’t last; our country has boomed into financial powerhouse in less than 50 years, and now we have one pandemic that squeezed the finances of the planet as a whole. Life is cyclical, and the end of one journey is the beginning of another.”
As for how life will change further because of the pandemic, Rashid is also optimistic. “I think the pandemic will end gradually this year or early next year due to the socio-behavioural changes that are happening in all of us which will limit its spread,” he says.
And as for what he plans to do once the lockdown is lifted, Rashid doesn’t hesitate. “I want to enjoy my favourite breakfast place again after the pandemic is over!”