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COVID-19: What Asian students can do about loneliness & discrimination

dealing with loneliness
If you're an international student dealing with loneliness and discrimination related to the coronavirus pandemic, don't be shy to reach out for help. Source: Mark Ralston/AFP

Leaving everything you know behind, from family, friends and even frenemies, to study abroad isn’t easy. Being away from all that’s familiar in the time of a COVID-19 pandemic is even harder.

It’s an imperfect world and the outbreak has brought out the absolute worst in some. Maybe you’re the victim of racist attacks, like this Singaporean student in London. Maybe all your friends, the ones you’ve worked so hard to make, are now thousands of miles away now that many campuses are shut down. With so many uncertainties over travel restrictions, you may never see them ever again.

In an ideal world, we discover a vaccine tomorrow and everything goes back to normal. But experts are predicting this is a crisis that would last until next year. Like it or not, international students have to prepare for the long road ahead.

The good news is there are people and organisations trying to make things better for us. So hang in there and check these resources out if you’re feeling lonely or discriminated:

1. The Asian Pacific Policy and Planning Counci (A3PCON)

If you’ve been discriminated against, students in the US can report the location, type of discrimination experienced and other details to the online reporting centre recently created by A3PCON along with the Chinese for Affirmative Action (CAA). The form is currently available in English, traditional Chinese, simplified Chinese and Korean.

dealing with loneliness

Many US campuses have shut down. Source: Maddie Meyer/AFP

The data collected will be used for education and media campaigns as well as resources for victims, such as pro bono legal work and direct assistance. You can get referrals to resources like human relations commissions, school districts and law enforcement, A3PCON Executive Director Manjusha Kulkarni told NBC Asian America.

“We hope members of the AAPI community will report incidents they have experienced, which may range from microaggressions to incidents of racial profiling to hate violence,” Kulkarni said.

2. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA)

Everyone reacts to stress differently. In these troubled times, if you or if you know someone who are feeling overwhelmed with emotions like sadness, depression, or anxiety, or feel like you want to harm yourself or others, international students in the US can call SAMHSA’s National Helpline 1-800-662-HELP (4357).

Alternatively, text TalkWithUs to 66746 (TTY 1-800-846-8517).

3. Your local representative

Several local lawmakers in New York have denounced extreme anti-Asian xenophobia related to the global coronavirus outbreak which has led to assaults, being sprayed with Febreeze and other concerning incidents.

International students can contact the offices of their local assemblyman or congressman to seek help, in addition to or before going to their campus or local authorities.

Those in New York who would like to create awareness can contact The Office of the Public Advocate, whose role is to introduce and co-sponsor legislation as well as investigate citizens’ complaints about city services and making proposals to address perceived shortcomings of those services and so forth.

4. International Friendships, Inc (IFI)

IFI is an organisation that connects universities and Christian volunteers in the name of promoting “friendship and hospitality for international students, scholars and family members”.

You’re likely to be in a location with a local IFI branch, which in pre-COVID-19 days, you’ll get to join the activities they’ve usually got arranged for international students, like airport pickup, temporary housing with a local American volunteer, trips across America, group discussions of the Bible, English conversation partners, and more.

These days, they’re ramping up their social media activity, with plans to interact more on Instagram and Facebook. They welcome international students from any religious and cultural backgrounds so don’t be shy to reach out if you’re feeling lonely.

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