International Students' COVID-19 Break Experiences
COVID-19 travel restrictions forced many international students to reimagine their plans for the extended winter break.
Many international students found a "second home" at Furman over the break, as they were unable to return home due to COVID-19 travel restrictions.
Lia Gaw Ghie Paw
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While the majority of Furman students spent their extended break at home with their families as they have in previous years, things were different for many international students. With travel restrictions and increasing COVID-19 cases around the world, few international students were able to return home, forcing many to make alternate plans for their time during the break.
Amitabh Chakravorty ’23 was fortunate to return home to Bangladesh to spend the Christmas with his family. As Chakravorty is a transfer student, adjusting to the new campus was challenging for him with this pandemic, making the end of the semester bittersweet. “I look forward to my internship at home during the break and am excited about the food,” Chakravorty shared excitedly. Despite the challenges of last year, he is looking forward to the next semester.
Chloe Sandifer-Stech ’23 had different plans for the break. Although Sandifer-Stech is an American, she has lived overseas in Beijing for 8 years and much of her family remains there. During the break, she decided to stay with her sister, who attends college in North Carolina. Due to travel restrictions to Beijing, Chloe and her sister will spend the break with some of her relatives that are in North Carolina for Christmas. “It is very encouraging to have a family member in a foreign country,” Chloe stated, further expressing her gratitude that she had family in the U.S. to spend time with since she was unable to return home to Beijing.
With quarantine and lockdowns, many people are frustrated by their excess time at home. However, not everyone has the opportunity to return home. For instance, many international students have been away from home for more than a year due to COVID-19. Even if the opportunity arises to return home, many of these students fear they will not be able to return to school to continue their studies due to travel bans and strict quarantines in their home countries.
I am one of these students. My name is Lia Paw, and I am a sophomore from a Southeast Asian country called Myanmar. I stayed on campus over the break due to COVID-19 travel bans and my country’s immigration restrictions. I have not been able to return home since the beginning of the pandemic, making this has been the longest period I have been apart from my family. Although this journey and time away from my family has been stressful, I know that this situation is temporary as nothing is permanent.
It is understandable that many Furman students are frustrated by the pandemic, especially over the challenges posed by the extended break. Yet, I hope that our community considers how each of us is experiencing a range of challenges due to COVID-19, and that we lean on each other for support. We are all in this pandemic together and it is always important to count our blessings as we sympathize with and rely on one another.