An International Student’s Perspective on COVID-19
What's it like to be an international student during the pandemic's isolation and physical distancing?
by: Tetiana Vitiuk
Coronavirus, or Covid-19, has impacted global healthcare systems and economies all over the world. Governments have announced drastic measures to prevent the disease from spreading. One of these was the implementation of social distancing, which seems to be a tricky thing for people. Some took it seriously, yet others went into vacation mode. The effects of course, also impact schools. Academic institutions closed their campuses to students, but what alternatives did they offer? Let’s dive into it!
When social distancing was put into effect, Seneca students anticipated two possibilities: either the winter semester would be canceled or classes would continue online. It didn’t take long to find out- students’ typical academic routines were replaced by a virtual reality. Online lectures, online assignments, and even online interactions with professors and classmates began on March 23rd. With everything happening all at once, the switch left many students confused. Honestly, I’m still getting used to our new classrooms, also known as Zoom or BigBlueButton. It’s not a secret that everything takes time, and this situation was no exception.
So, now what?
So, let’s address the million-dollar question; "what can we do?”
Well, I don’t have the exact answer! It seems like everyone has reacted to the situation differently. That is why I set out to interview my classmates about how they’re coping with it all. Despite the pressure, they’ve been trying to stay optimistic and focused. Plenty of them perceive this situation as a challenge, with the main feeling being that we can overcome it together. Resoundingly, all my classmates mentioned the importance of awareness and complying with all quarantine rules.
When I asked my fellow international students to share their thoughts on the situation, they all said different things. Some were afraid and struggled with anxiety. Many missed their families back home. Other students felt bad for their parents, who were extremely worried. It's one thing to practice self-isolation at home, it's entirely different when your loved ones are on the other side of the globe. Many are uncertain of when they will see their family again. "I can't travel back to my home country. With flight seats all booked, skyrocket prices and borders shut to almost all countries across the globe," said a student.
In addition to feeling far away, being from another country also means that some students have experienced people being more suspicious towards them. While the worries vary from person to person, many are stressed about money, employment, taking the public transit, and actually contracting the virus - especially in an environment they're still familiarizing themselves with.
Students agree that enforcing isolation was the best thing the government could do to prevent the virus from spreading. Many even wondered why the government didn’t act earlier. Respecting the rules is not easy and can be frustrating at times, but it's for the best and is the most responsible thing we can all do to help. "It prevents a person from spreading the virus to people with underlying conditions like me, which can be life-threatening," says a student who suffers from Asthma.
There is still a lot to be learned about the virus, but we know that maintaining a healthy immune system and being extra careful if you have underlying conditions are ways we can protect ourselves. Even though the isolation is tough, there is the silver lining of saving money and time on commuting to campus! "I drive for an hour to class every day. [Quarantine] saves me that burden."
Online Classes: Yeah or Nay?
When asked about what they thought about online classes, student's reactions were mixed. Some of them felt that online classes suited their schedule better. "As a parent, entrepreneur and someone very involved in my community, I'm so comfortable with the online classes. It gives me the flexibility to switch roles."
However, those who were looking for an in-person experience were disappointed to be receiving online education. Since the curriculum was created with the intention of being taught in person, it can feel like the switch won't work well. “It is extremely counter-intuitive to the nature of a program like Corporate Communications. Our program demands face-to-face teamwork, giving presentations, etc. and we can’t do it online,” said one student.
They all seemed to agree that it was the best option for the current semester and they are thankful that the transition to online was made so quickly. It's a lot to change, but because it was done quickly they didn't have to worry the semester schedule being impacted very much. They were happy to still be learning. "I'm glad the college possesses the infrastructure to still teach students when there's a crisis, albeit an online education."
Although the transition has gone smoothly, some are apprehensive about having to spend another semester online. "I believe we as human beings need social interaction, especially in classroom settings so I don’t think we should start doing all courses online for a long-term," one student said, hoping for things to return to normal soon.
The New Self-Care Routines
It’s easy to feel overwhelmed by everything that’s going on, but let’s look at the current situation from another perspective. The phrases, 'I promise to start working out on Monday', 'nah, later,' 'maybe tomorrow,' sound familiar, don't they? We all have plans or work we’ve been putting off for a long time. Now, we have the time to pursue our passions, and that is something we can use to our advantage! Start learning languages, take online courses, and better yourself in whatever way you like. So, let’s be grateful for today and not squander this valuable time.
In fact, students I spoke to have taken notes and adapted well to their new quarantine routines. Rather than focusing too much on the pandemic, they are able to relax and take it easy.
"I enjoy cooking for my family. I have a lot of recipes that I want to try during the next week. It is also I time for self-love. So, I enjoy doing face and hair masks and I even cut my own hair. I also organize and cleaned my bedroom and
try all my clothes."
Many are preparing themselves for jobs after the pandemic, others are taking this time to connect with their family, and some were finding ways to manage information. "I try not to read a lot about Covid-19. I designate a specific time of the day to check news."
There was a sense of restlessness present among the students, however, their main focus is remaining optimistic by doing what they love.
It’s essential to keep your spirits as high as you can. Keep working on your classes and stay positive. The pandemic will end; hopefully sooner rather than later. Also, let's all admire how well students and professors have responded and adapted to the situation. Adaptability is a great sign of leadership, self-discipline, and most of all, a quality every professional should aspire to have. Whether you’re dealing with this in your native country, or thousands of miles from home, keep in mind that you are not alone! Whatever obstacles lie ahead, we’ll overcome them together.
Stay safe, stay strong.
Tetiana Vitiuk is an international student from Ukraine. She holds a bachelor’s degree in English and Spanish Philology and she’s currently in the Public Relations - Corporate Communications program at Seneca. She’s passionate about fashion and traveling. Stay tuned for an exclusive interview with her on the Seneca Media Unscripted podcast!