College interrupted: How are university students in the US coping with the COVID-19 outbreak?

Sustainable Development Goals 2030
SDGs play an important role to society. Source: FREDERIC J. BROWN/AFP

Miami University in Ohio used to be heaving with students and activity. These days, it’s an empty campus.

That’s one observation made by US student Peter Lincoln amidst the COVID-19 outbreak.

In an email interview with Study International, the student said the global health crisis has “upended” life at university. 

Classes abruptly went online, while assignments and exams are now postponed to allow professors to acclimatise to the new format. 

“Going forward, everything will be online and we will meet with our teachers via video conferencing. Also, everyone was ordered to leave campus and go home. All school facilities have been shut down,” he said.

The only constant is change

Lincoln, a finance major at Miami University, said the changes off-campus have been subtle.

Initially, the shops were still open and people were still walking around in public.

Now, however, there are nation-wide mandates for “shelter in place” quarantine, said the finance major at Miami University.

university students

The COVID-19 outbreak has “completely upended” university students’ campus lives, said Lincoln. Source: Peter Lincoln

“You go to the store and many shelves are empty. Busy streets are desolate. One of the biggest differences is that we can’t go to the gym or even some public places,” said the 22-year-old.

“I am currently in Florida and all beaches are closed. People are starting to take this pandemic very seriously, it is good, but also concerning that it has gotten this far.” 

Many local students have gone home to be with their families, said Lincoln. 

“Many of my friends are quite depressed at the fact that their senior year of college has ended early. The worst part is that this was all so sudden and we were not prepared to leave so suddenly,” he said.

Despite that, Lincoln said he was “pleasantly surprised” at how quickly his university has adapted their curriculum to being remote. 

“Other schools have struggled with this. Some have even cancelled the semester altogether. If this pandemic continues through the summer and into the fall, universities across the world will have to make some tough decisions regarding their academics,” he said.

Despite this period of uncertainty being tough on some students, Lincoln thinks it could be a good lesson for his generation to learn how to cope in a situation like this. 

An international students’ perspective on COVID-19 outbreak

university students

The COVID-19 outbreak can be particularly challenging for international students. Source: Maddie Meyere/Getty Images North America/AFP

International student Aruwin Segaren is now on an extended spring break as instructed by his university.

“We are on lockdown and I have spent most of my time developing my LinkedIn profile as well as watching new TV shows,” said the Malaysian at the University of Wisconsin-Eau Clair.

The third-year marketing student, who is President of the International Student Association, is also dealing with concerns faced by international students during this time.

These include worries about their housing availability, food and immigration statuses, particularly for those graduating this semester in May. 

“UW – Eau Claire took longer than other schools in the area to announce the closure, making it much more stressful for all of us,” he explained. 

While the COVID-19 outbreak has been particularly challenging for international students who aren’t at home with their loved ones, Aruwin advised students to hang tight as they brace themselves for a rough few months. 

His message to students includes going to the international office for help, or to contact their nearest consulate. 

“Seeking help is very important at this stage,” he said.

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