Every morning at 8 a.m., I wake up to the sound of my parents calling on my phone.
These days there are no greetings, no good mornings – just plain questions: “How are you?” and “Did you stay home?” We have adapted to a routine where I answer the questions about the news they heard on the television during the day and clarify what the reported statistics mean. They are worried, there is a global pandemic, and their daughter is 8,000 miles away and cannot return home.
Living as an international student in the United States for the last four years has been a roller coaster ride. When the 2016 elections were going on, all of us were nervous, looking at the negativity that was connotated with immigration and immigrants. When the Trump administration started rolling the bans, we were nervous to see if our country was going to be the next on his list. Today, I find myself once again worried as the nationalist sentiments are resurfacing while the administration is bent on pushing for the term ‘Chinese-virus’ while the hate crimes against Asian-Americans are rising.
Furthermore, the international students who come to Troy come from a diverse range of socio-economic backgrounds. For some of us, the scholarships that we have were the only reason that we were able to take our shot at a globally competitive education system. Today there are still some international students that rely on on-campus jobs to meet their other expenses, but with the campus closure post-spring break, some have been left without their jobs. While the Trump administration is rolling out plans for unemployment benefits for Americans, we are left staring at the little money that we saved. Many of our home countries are in lockdown. There is only so much money, but plenty of uncertainty on when this will end.
The scenario is even more worrisome for the senior year international students who were set to graduate this spring. With the uncertainty of the shutdown scenario and the probable decline that the economy is headed for, many seniors are worried if they will be able to get a job once they graduate. The ones who looked as if they were going to land either a full-time job or internship before the outbreak happened are now getting emails stating that their offers are uncertain and are subject to change. If the present scenario was not grim enough, the future looks even bleaker from where we stand today – the banks at home are shut or cannot be accessed, while bank balances here are starting to thin.
Going back to the questions that my mother asks, one of her primary concerns is how will we pay for healthcare if anything happens? We international students have insurance that we spend a good sum of money for, however, the healthcare system in the United States comes with so many terms and conditions that every time a bill comes from a hospital, we are always confused if we should pay for it or if the $2,000 insurance will. The Trump administration is struggling with its contingency plan to address the costs of COVID-19 testing and treatment, and us internationals are frustrated in not knowing the answers, silently praying that we don’t get infected.
While I am grateful that the Troy University administration has undertaken policies that have been protective of the student body so far in this unprecedented mayhem, I could not help but mull over the concerns of the international students.
There are concerns. And when it comes to a global pandemic, the concerns are not limited to a group but are universal and human. However, living away from home – unable to return even if we wanted to, we international students as minorities are given the challenge to make our voices heard and see that we aren’t forgotten when policies are rolled forth.