The Many Challenges of Being an International Student During a Pandemic

The ideas and viewpoints expressed in the posts on the Ideas and Creations blog are solely the view of the author(s). Luther College's mission statement calls us to "embrace diversity and challenge one another to learn in community," and to be "enlivened and transformed by encounters with one another, by the exchange of ideas, and by the life of faith and learning." Alumni, faculty, staff, students and friends of the college are encouraged to express their views, model "good disagreement" and engage in respectful dialogue.

2020 was quite a tumultuous year across the globe. With the pandemic causing continued global distress and the political changes occurring in the United States, uncertainty is a feeling that everyone has become familiar with. Luther abruptly transitioned to online learning in the spring of 2020, causing a drastic change in education style and an increasing uncertainty among the international students left on campus, unable to return home.

Sudden But Necessary Adjustments

As an international student being far from home (India), it was a struggle to keep up with the academic stress while adjusting to the academic pressure and uncertainty of living arrangements with the possibility of a closed campus. The pandemic has not been kind to anybody. While most students went home in the spring, others were not able to return. For those who remained, the empty campus was a constant reminder of how life was going to be different.

Spending the second-half of spring semester cooped up in our rooms for safety and with new precautions being put in place, we worked to maintain some level of normalcy with safe and physically-distanced interactions, such as wearing masks and maintaining 6-feet distance with each other. Fear of putting myself and others in danger was, and is, a constant and necessary reminder to behave responsibly and recognize the dangers of the pandemic.

Increased Anxiety

Not everyone may feel the same, but my greatest fears have been for the safety of my family and my main struggle has been to adjust to the new standards of normalcy in these changing times. As we moved into the summer and saw a rise in the number of cases, physical distancing became even more necessary, and there was uncertainty about securing a work-study position.

Yet, it was not all bad. It was pleasant to see a larger number of students roaming the campus grounds. I also was able to secure a work position and enjoyed being able to interact with people during my shifts. It was encouraging to see other students, faculty, and staff members, and maintain contact with family members living far away to create a sense of community and belonging.

Resilience Is Key

As summer ended, students had to adjust to an academic calendar change: the September Term and the Quarter system. Being unable to go home for the spring and summer increased my feelings of hopelessness and homesickness. But the start of the academic year, more students returning to campus, and increased interaction with students and professors during class were all reminders that we can overcome these hard times together. With my family living far away and fighting their own battles against COVID-19, it is natural to be worried about them. 

As we face our struggles against the pandemic, we need to remember that with the support of our friends and family, we can overcome the difficulties that are being presented to us and learn a few important lessons about our own resilience and lifestyles.

Sneha keeps her devices clean for personal safety.

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