International Students remain on campus

According to Winston Baker, director of Residence Life, there are between 40 to 45 students currently staying on campus.

Among the students living on campus, seven are international students. According to Heather Catton, director of International Studies and Programs, only about a dozen decided to return home.

“About half of them [the students who returned home] were exchange students who were at SFA for the academic year or just the spring semester,” Catton said. “This was definitely an option for any international student if they and their families thought it was the best choice for them. Students who returned home or relocated to live with relatives or friends who are living in the U.S. will still be able to finish their classes for the semester, just like any other student. Many international students are actually still in town if they are living off campus.”

The international students on campus still needed to apply for emergency housing, but Catton said the process was easy.

“Residence Life has been extremely responsive and communicative in the whole situation,” Catton said. “I knew that students would need to apply for an emergency housing permit to remain on campus. But, being an international student and not being able to return home or not having access to alternate housing was one of the criteria that they were going to approve. The process was very easy for them and they were reassured that they could stay here through the end of the semester.”

Nida Kamal, a senior international business major from Mumbai, India, is among the international students who decided to stay on campus.

“Initially, the school moved online until April’s first week, and it did not make sense flying back home for 2 weeks,” Kamal said. “Then, we got the news that NCAA cancelled the season for the rest of the year. I am part of the SFA Women’s Tennis Team, and school was moving online for the rest of the year. But by this time, there was a travel ban put in place in my country. So, I couldn’t fly back home and decided to stay on campus.”

Kamal has been in contact with her family back home, who are also experiencing quarantine.

“Those FaceTime calls are something that are helping me get through this pandemic,” Kamal said. “My family wishes I would be with them right now, but they also understand how risky it would be to fly through airports at this time. They are super concerned especially when U.S. became the leading nation in the world for the highest number of cases. Currently, India is on a lockdown. There are specific times where you can go out for grocery shopping in the morning; but apart from that, you are not allowed on the streets at all.”

Being a senior, Kamal is planning to graduate in August and said she wasn’t expecting her year to end this way. Besides just the tennis season ending early, Kamal was looking forward to other last experiences.

“There were many things I was looking forward to before this quarantine,” Kamal said. “There was our season, my senior day for which my parents were flying to America for the first time ever, my graduation ceremony and just spending time with my friends before I went back home for good.”

Another international student on the tennis team, Armelle Cerdan, a senior kinesiology major from Beaulieu, France, is enjoying her stay on campus.

“I decided to stay on campus because it is relaxing [and] calm,” Cerdan said. “I am by myself. I love it. I really love walking on campus. It’s kind of like my Time Square, [at least] I think it is because I have never been there.”

Cerdan was already staying in Lumberjack Village, one of the two dorms still being used, and that she prefers staying in her room to do classes online.

“Fortunately I am still at the same dorm and I am so glad. I love my dorm,” Cerdan said. “It’s so clean, peaceful, etc. I live in [in a dorm] where I can cook my own food and do everything at home. I love studying from my room. It is so nice to have online classes. I wish more online classes were available. And I hope that after this, teachers will realize how cool it is to work from home. You just need to be organized, and that’s it.”

Like Kamal, Cerdan has been in contact with her family over FaceTime, but does not want to see them in person, just in case she has unknowingly come in contact with the virus.

“I do not see any difference actually,” Cerdan said. “People are still going out, going to Walmart, touching everything. We have to stay home. Kids are running around, and I still see group of four or five people walking around. Stay at home, and do not go out. I am being serious. Wouldn’t you rather stay at home for three weeks than have to be in this weird situation for five months? Please, your grandparents will thank you.”

Faraz Khan, a computer science major from Karachi, Pakistan, is an exchange student who was at SFA for the semester.

Khan decided to stay on campus because, with not much choice, it seemed like the safe option.

“To be honest, I did not really have a choice,” Khan said. “I was in New York during the spring break, when I heard that SFA was shifting to online mode of instruction. I thought it would be best for my safety if I leave New York as soon as possible, since it was the epicenter of COVID-19, and reach SFA, where I would at least be safe in my room.”

Khan said the changes have been noticeable, especially now that there aren’t many people on campus. However, the switch to online instruction has been a smooth transition.

“The experience so far has been very different,” Khan said. “I used to love seeing so many people walking to their classes and doing their work, and now you rarely see anyone here. Other than that, I feel academics hasn’t changed much. In fact, I feel with online classes you get more time to study, and the professors have been really accommodating.”

Khan has been moved from Griffith Hall to Village and feels satisfied safe with the changes from Residence Life.

“I would also appreciate the dining hall staff, who I believe are working very hard to make sure we are safe,” Khan said. “I would like to appreciate the dining hall for their inclusivity and their effort to make sure they still facilitate people to adhere to dietary restrictions. Even with the limited options, the staff has brought halal food especially for me, and this is something that I really appreciate.”

According to Khan, the situation in Pakistan is similar to here and the government is working hard to flatten the curve. Khan has been in Constant touch with family and friends back home.”

“They are naturally very worried and anxious, especially when there is so much going on in the news,” Khan said. “While they are satisfied with my safety within the campus, they still want me to come back as soon as possible.”

Of the SFA experience this semester, Khan was looking forward to trips hosted by the rec center, as well as the pool opening, but said he would consider another study abroad trip despite cancellations.

“Even though this semester has been different in ways I couldn’t imagine, I still have grown in so many ways, and this has been an enriching experience.”

In order to maintain safety, restrictions have been put in place, including:

  • Students have been moved to Hall 20 and Lumberjack Village
  • There is only one student per room with no roommates
  • Dining services are open, but there is only a to-go option

Meredith Janning has worked on The Pine Log since her second semester at Stephen F. Austin. During her time at The Pine Log, Meredith has held the positions of staff writer and news editor.

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