International students feel the pandemic
March 26, 2020
The past weeks haven’t been easy for anyone. So many decisions have been made in the middle of chaos. This COVID-19 pandemic has a different effect on everyone. As an international student from Brazil, all of this hit me a little differently. With so many unanswered questions, there’s a river of emotions that I couldn’t control.
Before we left Seward County Community College for spring break everything seemed normal. I knew about the virus but I wasn’t really worried about it, yet. Everything felt normal. The college hosted the Annual Southwest Science Fair on March 7 where I was a judge and everything went just fine. What I didn’t know was … this was the last event I would be a part of during my freshman year.
I realized things were getting worse when I had to cancel a visit to Arkansas City to see a Brazilian friend going to college there. The county had a possible case and she couldn’t leave campus. About that time, everyone began talking about how we could get an extended spring break due to COVID 19. Seward was one of many colleges across the nation that gave students an extra week.
Some of the students were pretty happy with this decision. I was, too. But honestly, I was also anxious about which way this situation was going. I was worried about what could happen here and what could happen at home in Brazil. Everything was gone in the grocery stores. The news showed death tolls increasing every day. I had so many questions that I didn’t even know if they had an answer anymore.
Monday afternoon I got a call from Krystal Zimmerman, she is the person who takes care of the international students at SCCC, inviting us to a meeting. I felt anxious. I did not know what to expect. Tuesday morning, college president Ken Trzaska sent out an email that changed everything in everyone’s life. Our classes were switched to an online format.
That email answered a lot of my questions, but it also built up a lot of others. “Do I go back home?” “Is my family going to be okay?” “Online classes? But I have labs, what am I going to do?” “Quarantine?” “What about my work-study?” “What about our chemistry project?” “Finals?” “My friends graduation in May?” These questions and a million others ran through my mind uncontrollably.
I saw friends from other universities coming home to Hugoton — where I was an exchange student in high school — because their colleges closed. I saw some international students buying tickets to go back home. I did not know what to do, so I went to the meeting at SCCC.
It was great to see all the internationals together; it was good timing. It felt good to see that SCCC has a big international family. We all come from 24 different countries. During these six months, I’ve had the chance to meet most of them, learn about their cultures and their languages. We are mostly freshman so we have gone through everything together and helped each other. We made SCCC our home away from home.
The meeting answered my questions, but I didn’t expect to leave there the way I did. I felt sad, scared and lost.
I didn’t know if I should go home to Brazil or not. As a freshman, it is too risky to leave the country right now because we don’t know what is going to happen in five months. We might not be able to come back for next fall.
Many of the other internationals that are athletes had to give up on their season. Some were going to graduate this May but will not cross the stage and get the diploma in person. Trust me, that’s one of the most important parts for us. It is when we know that we made it — we graduated. We stayed two years away from home, family and friends to earn that diploma, to do that small walk across the stage.
Seeing most of my friends leaving the meeting broke my heart into pieces. Some are heading home or to guardians in the United States. Some will stay at SCCC, maybe because the border is closed or they will have a lab in-person. This also makes me sad because they won’t be able to see their families during this global pandemic.
I hope that we can all meet again next fall in the hallways. I hope we can walk with each other to class, study together for exams and finals. I hope we get the chance to know more people next year from different parts of the world and tell them about how crazy our freshman year was. I hope I am able to cheer on the international athletes next year while they do their best on the court or on the field.
I hope we never forget how brave we are in coming to a different country to get an education. We are all going to get through this … together!