Far from home

The impacts of COVID-19 on international students

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International student studying at University of Nottingham.

JACKSONVILLE, Fla.— A semester has been cut short due to COVID-19. A multitude of students have been forced to return home and take online classes due to the rapid spread of the virus.

The first case of the coronavirus in the United Sates was discovered in late January. According to Worldometer, a website that tracks real-time statistics, at the time of this report, the U.S. has 53,287 confirmed cases and 689 deaths.

According to Jacksonville.com, the virus is also spreading in Duval county with 50 confirmed cases and three deaths at the time of this report.

For these reasons, Jacksonville University announced on March 17 that all classes would continue to be online for the remainder of the semester. This statement has been made clear by a multitude of emails sent out by the president’s office, housing, and the office of the provost.

Within the emails sent to students, it was recommended that students return home if possible. Many students have taken the advice to heart and returned home, but there are some international students who don’t have that option. In these cases, students are permitted to continue residing at the university, but are being relocated to the south end of campus.

“I am from Pakistan and my borders are closed; I have no option but to stay,” said Syed Moeed Irfan, computer science undergraduate. “I haven’t seen my family in over a year and don’t have anyone here in Jacksonville.”

International students like Moeed are going through a difficult time. International students have left their family, friends and homes to come to the U.S. and get an education.

“It’s already hard being here so far from my family and now, with the virus, there is an even bigger distraction,” said Moeed.

He is only one of the many affected. According to Jacksonville University there are 259 international students that registered in fall 2019.

“The virus has put me in a tough spot where I’m stuck at home most of the time,” said Arjun Ravi Sivaraman, an international student from Bangalore, India.

Ravi has faced much adversity this semester due to his visa.

“I had to return to India so I could renew my visa,” said Ravi. “That forced me to drop out of school for this semester and finish my final classes next year. I am an aviation major and planned to get more fly time when I got back, but now I am unable to.”

It is a hard time for all students, but many international students don’t know anyone in the country or have friends who have left to go to other states.

Many of them simply try to find ways to stay busy.

“I watch TV and try not to look at anything related to the pandemic apart from anything positive,” said Moeed.

There isn’t much international students can do or control except for their own mentality.