Sept. 4, 2020 | By Anya Quesnel | Illustration by Patil Khakhamian

International Life Column

New visa restrictions, homesickness, and endless uncertainty — what has it been like for international students since everything changed this March? Hear from some of Colorado College’s international student population in their own words:

“I’ve lived away from home for a while and what’s always helped to fight the homesickness has been knowing the exact date when I’ll be back; even when that day was a year later, at least I could look forward to it. One of the hardest things about the current situation is having no idea when I’ll be able to reunite with friends and family.” ~ Joshua Kalenga ’23, Zambia

“In contrast to the U.S., transparency is prioritized [in South Korea], meaning that one’s privacy is breached for the greater good of the mass. When someone gets it [COVID-19] in my city or nearby, I get a text message about where that person lives, how old that person is, where that person has been in the past few days. There is a lot of social shaming when someone contracts the virus, which I think is a bigger factor for people to avoid contracting the virus [than] the health effects. But thanks to that, I think people started wearing masks from the very beginning, which was like February. I personally think the government is doing amazing contact tracing where people contact individuals and enforce quarantining, and they are very transparent about where the country is standing. But a virus is a virus and it is built to be spread so I think there always is a limit, as there has been a huge spike recently in South Korea.” ~ Gina Jeong ’24, South Korea

“I think it was really hard to grapple with being among the few who stayed behind on campus for the summer. Of course, Nepal is not doing well, like most other places. But the devastation with which the U.S. is handling this really opened room for conversations with family who often idolize what being here is. As much as I’m grateful to CC for making summer for some of us possible financially, the whole ICE scare really made me reflect on this notion of gratitude and that we will be viewed as statistics if/when needed. To many of my American friends who are embarrassed with the state of the U.S. right now, and to some of us who want to just go back to normal, I hope this offers an opportunity to reflect on the fact that normal is privilege.” ~ Saluja Siwakoti ’21, Nepal

“Trinidad and Tobago, with a population of 1.3 million, closed its borders to all travel on March 22, 2020. On this day, I was on the home stretch of a 27-hour car drive from Colorado Springs to the East coast. Four hours out of JFK and before the last flight from the U.S. to Port of Spain took off, my mother called and confirmed: no travel into Trinidad. In that moment, I will admit, I felt relief. At that point, we had no idea what the timeline of the virus would be and I was more nervous about traveling during a pandemic than anything else. I figured I’d spend half the summer in the U.S. and head home in July. That didn’t happen. When the borders of T&T closed, there were six cases of COVID-19. For about three months, that number did not rise above 60 due to very strict lockdown mandates and social distancing policies that were implemented when there were less than 10 active cases. At that early point in the summer, I naively was more worried about my family in my little home island than myself in a hotspot urban area in the U.S. Permanently shaking the imperialist notion that the U.S. is the most equipped, advanced, and ‘developed’ place in the world is a process that takes time. It overwhelms me to think about the fact that I don’t know when I’ll be home again. It infuriates me that I live and am policed in a country in which I have no say in its leadership. It saddens me to see preventable death. But, I do my schoolwork, work my job, stand firm in my politics, make tea, wear my mask, and repeat. Repeat until.” ~ Anya Quesnel ’23, Trinidad and Tobago

“I initially planned to stay in Colorado for the summer, so staying on campus over the summer was in fact a good experience for me. I feel extremely grateful for Bon Appetit, Campus Activities, and Housing staff for everything they did in the summer: weekly food bank, arts and crafts supplies, outdoor movie nights, themed meals, and more. Being in CC during summer was honestly like a safe haven. Colorado summer is gorgeous if I could add.” ~ Kelly Yue ’21, Hong Kong

“The situation at home [Lebanon] is complicated because of the economic crisis and the recent explosion that topped it up. COVID-19 cases are rapidly increasing as people are worrying more about how to get food and shelter, how to help others by offering them food and shelter, community engagement, and support during these tough times. Even though the world is going through a pandemic, Lebanon is going through an unprecedented economic crisis due to the unapologetically corrupt government and dealing with the aftershock of the explosion in Beirut that was a direct cause of negligence from the government’s part. The explosion would have taken more lives if COVID-19 didn’t have more people indoors because it took place in the heart of Beirut’s nightlife area. Being away from home literally breaks my heart; I am lost for words. I almost feel guilty and “not Lebanese enough” for not being there when my country needs me the most. I try to do my part from here but it’s tough to live life somewhere when half of your head is somewhere else. Every day I wake up and think to myself: home is never going to be where I left it. They say home is where the heart is, I feel like the glass particles from the explosion penetrated my heart; it became one and part of the broken illusion of home.” ~ Patil Khakhamian ’22, Lebanon

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