COVID-19 Poses Challenges for International Students

Imagine, traveling to another country to study for months, leaving behind your family and friends and embarking on a new journey. You’re nervous but excited and quickly you begin to make friends and create memories. Then suddenly there’s a roadblock, COVID-19. Instead of feeling welcomed you feel stranded. Your friends move home to quarantine, you must move all your work online and your carefully crafted plan for your future is crushed.

Sadly this is the truth that the international students at Tarleton State University are currently facing. This is how the current International Tarleton students are handling the current situation.

One of the challenges that international students are facing is racism. There is a rise in racism against Asians in America. Some American citizen have used this pandemic to begin xenophobic attacks on people with Asian appearance. A south Korean student enrolled at Tarleton, Haeyeon Park experienced this racism firsthand when she went to Walmart for groceries.

“People are looking at me like I’ve got the virus. When I went out wearing a mask to protect myself, people were stepping back from me and even taking pictures of me. It was horrible.” Haeyeon said.

Although this was an uncomfortable experience for Haeyeon she expresses her gratitude to the faculty and staff at Tarleton for working hard to ensure their safety and comfort.

“Dr. Robitaile, Ms. Soncee and Dr. Tanter have been helping the international students. They gave us lots of information and advice. They know that this is a tough situation for us,” Haeyeon said.

Haeyeon’s original plan was to study for the spring and fall 2020 semesters and is still hopeful she will be able to do so.

Another Tarleton student, Junie Khaw is back home in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. Currently Malaysia is under a mandatory shelter in place order, but Junie says she can still go out to get essential things. Junie said that she too receives regular emails to ensure that she is doing well.

“Knowing there is someone to contact if we have any concerns or questions during the pandemic gives us a sense of reassurance,” Khaw said.

Although Junie finds understanding hands-on projects difficult, she overall finds the online formal comfortable and understands that Tarleton can only do so much.

“There is nothing they can do to help during the pandemic other than making sure everyone is safe and that all of us are still catching up with our studies,” Khaw said.

Even with the encouragement from staff, there are still challenges. Soyoung Yang, a South Korean student has been attending Tarleton since August 2019 and was planning to stay until May 2020. She is currently living in Tampa, Florida with her sister as she waits until it is safe to fly back home to Seoul, South Korea.

Soyoung’s first language is not English like many of the other international students attending Tarleton. This challenge is causing a language barrier she says was not there in face to face classes.

“When I need to ask a question to the instructor, it is sometimes harder to communicate online. I need to make my sentences more accurate to properly communicate online. It was easier to ask

questions in person because I was able to add body language to convey what I wanted to ask.” Soyoung said.

International students are left feeling stranded and frustrated. They want to succeed in their classes, pursue their dreams and feel comfortable in their environment just as much as the rest of America and the world. Thankfully the Tarleton faculty and staff are working hard to ensure their success.

In the time of COVID-19 it is important to act rationally and intelligently to prevent panic and misinformation. Treating people with respect and empathy helps lessen the strain this pandemic holds over all of us.