Graphic by Kelsey Jackson.
Imagine moving across the world to attend a school in a whole new country. Everything starts out great; you love your classes, you’ve made tons of friends, you’ve joined new clubs, but suddenly a massive pandemic erupts and chaos ensues.
Now, you’re far from home, you can’t travel back, you’ve lost your job on campus and you’re nervous about contracting a deadly disease.
Dixie State University international students are pushing through the complicated circumstances presented by COVID-19 with the help of the International Student Services staff.
Alice Ferrari, a sophomore biology major from Campinas, São Paulo, Brazil, said being an international student is already a challenge in itself; not only are these students studying a second language and overcoming cultural barriers, but they now have to deal with all of the threats presented by a worldwide pandemic.
“With COVID-19, it becomes a greater challenge because we not only have to worry about the situation here in the U.S.A., but in our homelands as well,” Ferrari said.
Ferrari said international students are being well taken care of by the staff from the DSU International Students Services department. The staff communicates with them frequently to check on their wellbeing during this unprecedented time.
“During spring break, we started offering free lunches every day in our office until campus closed,” said Shadman Bashir, director of International Student Services. “Students would come by themselves or in pairs to grab their food, so we could practice safe social distancing and follow the health guidelines.”
Since campus closed, Bashir and his staff have remained in the Jeffrey R. Holland Building, where international students can come and collect their free lunches three times per week until April 30. The students must continue to follow the rules and restrictions recommended by health professionals, so no large groups are acceptable.
“Not only do they provide us with free lunches, they help with getting groceries or any needs, and are sending us a lot of emails to keep us updated on everything DSU-related, immigration, scholarships [and so on],” said Fabi Puschmann, a sophomore psychology major from Horstmar, Germany. “There are a lot of extra rules for international students, so the staff have been doing their best to make sure we are all doing okay.”
Puschmann said the hardest part for international students at this time is their extreme homesickness and worries about their family members.
“The worst part about this whole situation is that I can’t just go home and quarantine with my family like most students have,” Puschmann said. “Because most of the borders are shut down, our ISS team advised everyone to stay in the country because we don’t know if we’d be able to get back to the states in time to start the fall semester.”
Suzzet Ndubuisi, a junior biology major from Lagos, Nigeria, said since most of her American friends traveled home to quarantine with their families, it has become a very lonely process. COVID-19 has also effected her future plans with family.
“My parents were supposed to come here for my brother’s graduation, but due to ‘Miss Rona’ they can’t travel here anymore,” Ndubuisi said. “This is like deja vu for me dealing with the Ebola virus a few years ago in Sierra Leone.”
With the economies of other countries slowly collapsing due to the panic of contracting the virus at work, international students could be affected by not having enough money to be funded while at school, Bashir said.
“It’s overwhelming having to study outside of a school environment and worry about our loved ones that are so far away,” Ferrari said. “Not to mention, the potential financial problems we might encounter since most of our jobs that were on campus are gone now.”
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Bashir said as these students are losing their jobs on campus, they are losing the only way of funding what they need the most right now. They are not receiving much money from home and cannot make any pocket-change for themselves.
“People all around campus have been really, really kind to the international students,” Bashir said. “Most of their advisers and professors understand all of the problems these students are facing and have been very supportive and cooperative with them.”
Ferrari said the international students frequently check up on each other to ensure they are all staying safe and healthy. None of the international students are returning home, so they only really have each other to rely on for friendly encouragement.
“It’s a really tough time for us right now, but at least we have each other and the support from our awesome ISS team,” Ferrari said.
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