Don’t forget about the people who can’t go home during this pandemic

Many international students are stranded in the United States

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(McKenna Premus/Daily Collegian)

By Maria Elena Little Endara, Collegian Staff

With a global pandemic wreaking havoc on our society, stress levels are at an all-time high. The move to online learning has meant that many college students are back home living with their families, which naturally has left some students feeling frustrated.

“My parents are driving me up the wall. I wish I didn’t have to be here,” one of my friends texted me. I understood how she felt, but I also wanted to remind her that at least she could go home.

First person encounters of international students echo the sentiment of loneliness that is felt by many who have been caught in the middle of the pandemic. One essay titled, “I’m an international student 7,000 miles away from my family. Loneliness is my new reality” is one of these encounters.

On the other end, there are also American students stranded abroad after borders were closed. According to a New York Times article, Boston University spent $55,000 to charter a private jet to get their study abroad students from Ecuador home.

To help slow the spread of COVID-19, we are asked to sacrifice going out, meeting up with our friends and going to school. When COVID-19’s toll on the world began to speed up and stay-at-home advisories were implemented, I began to realize that I along with many other international students would have to sacrifice something larger than going outside: going home.

My parents are American teachers working overseas in China, where I grew up. When the first outbreak happened in Wuhan, I wanted to book a flight to be with them.

“You might get sick! You can’t miss school! We’re going to be okay,” my parents told me. They said this would all blow over soon and I could be home again, but slowly the virus spread to the entirety of China. My family had to go into lockdown. They told me I was safer here, until the United States became the next epicenter of COVID-19.

Every morning I have the same routine, I check for flights home. But then I got an update that I feared, that foreigners aren’t being let into China in order to slow the virus. This means that my family can’t leave China because they may not be able to return to their home and their jobs.

It could be months or years until I see them again. With the pandemic closing down borders, it has left thousands of international students and others with nowhere to go. UMass currently has 345 international students from 50 countries. Each of those students have their own story.

I do not want anyone to feel as if their own struggles are being minimized, but I hope that we can remember that not everyone has the opportunity or the luxury to be home right now. Being back home with limited amounts of privacy and independence is stressful, but many of us would give anything to be with our families.

I want people to understand that this virus is serious. If you do not take it seriously, it means that you are increasing the amount of time we have to wait to return to our normal lives. It is normal to feel stressed or tired of being locked in with your parents because it’s a shift from the normalcy of our college life. But for the many of us who can’t go home, or for the students who have nowhere to go, try not to complain. Try to make the best of being with your family and being back home. Remember the students in the United States and around the world that wake up every day hoping they can be reunited with their families again.

Maria Elena Little Endara can be reached at [email protected]