International students cope with coronavirus

Larah Labrun is an international student at FAMU. Photo courtesy Labrun

The outbreak of the coronavirus has disrupted the education of students worldwide, particularly international students. 

FAMU, along with many other schools across the world, has shifted to online education, making it a rough transition for some. A number of United States universities such as Harvard, New York University and Boston University, issued announcements that all students living in residence halls will have to leave. For some students, going back home is not an easy option whether due to safety or financial reasons.  

This pandemic, has only added to the hurdles many foreign students face. International students often deal with home sickness, language barriers and the culture shock of living in a new place.

Larah Labrun is an exchange student from France and was born and raised in the island of Martinique. Labrun transferred for a year from Science Po, a university in Paris and chose to study at FAMU because she wanted to attend an HBCU. While at FAMU she studied humanities and political science.

Labrun had to repatriate to Martinique since she was a temporary visitor in France. France, along with many other European nations, joined other countries in setting an ultimatum for travel back to the country. Unfortunately for Labrun the announcement by the school was a little late, which only gave her a week’s notice to clear her belongings and head back to France.  

Because of that she is now in Martinique completing her studies online like many other students.

“I do have trouble focusing since I am in Martinique and not in Paris where I studied,” she said.

Labrun went home only during vacations and now there’s a lockdown on the island. “I have trouble realizing that this time is not vacation and that I am actually in school,” she said.

Despite those minor setbacks, Labrun is content with her communication with professors and their understanding of her situation.

Nikita Muhki is another international student who is currently in Canada. She is from the island of St. Maarten. Muhki is completing her master’s at Western University and decided to study there because of the international experience to practice in countries like India, Australia or Scotland.

For Muhki, transitioning online was a bit challenging for her since each professor had different ways of connecting with their students.

“Part of being a student is being self-directed and knowing how to manage yourself and tasks ahead,” she said. 

Muhki said that as a senior she has created a system that works for her. Before COVID-19 she often struggled with commuting for groceries in the winter. Now with online classes, she has more freedom to schedule meetings and have personal time as there is no need to factor travel time. One negative impact for Muhki is the fact that she may never see some of her classmates again. She enjoyed her social relationships and several students left within days of classes being canceled and switched to online.

The global call for self-isolation, or quarantine, further adds to the loneliness several international students may face, especially at this time.