International Students Share Their Experience And Concerns With COVID-19

Photo Courtesy of Elizabeth Kim

As schools prepare to reopen for the fall semester, the spread of COVID-19 has taken a toll on international students in many ways. 

In the past year, over a million students from around the world attended U.S. colleges.

According to the International Student and Scholar Services, Georgia State has over 3,000 international students enrolled for the summer semester to study remotely and on campus this year.

A week before spring break, Georgia State students were ordered to evacuate from student housings and dorms, which included international students. 

Some international students have left their country to study in the U.S., but this pandemic has interrupted their time at Georgia State. Some students have returned back to their country while others stayed. 

Nada Mahmoud, an international student from Egypt, decided to stay in Georgia. She has resided in the U.S. with her family since 2017. 

Although Mahmoud is still in the U.S., she still has many concerns about what’s going on in her country. 

One of her major concerns was the number of deaths rising in Egypt. 

“Healthcare officials and hospitals [were] underprepared for this pandemic and people are dying each day because hospitals [don’t] have enough equipment to fight the virus,” Mahmoud said. “Large amounts of people died because they simply couldn’t get the care that they deserve.”

According to Worldometers, there was a total of 2,365 deaths reported in Egypt as of June 24. 

The guidelines in Egypt are similar to the guidelines in the U.S. as far as encouraging people to avoid any gatherings. 

According to Mahmoud, there’s a curfew that starts at 8 p.m. for everyone to be sheltered. Malls, restaurants and companies remain closed as of today, as well as mosques and churches. 

”I felt positive that maybe all [these] changes happening around the world would end this virus or even reduce the chance if it’s spreading,” Mahmoud said. 

Elizabeth Kim, a Georgia State student, was born in the U.S. but her parents are originally from South Korea. She was an international exchange student through Georgia State’s Study Abroad Programs. 

Although Kim didn’t face any problems in the U.S, she was already on her study abroad trip in France before the worldwide spread of COVID-19.

According to Kim, at first, it was a normal routine as people were out enjoying themselves; then things started to become hectic. France was now on lockdown.

In order to go outside in France, one had to have documents stating where they were from. If they didn’t have those documents, police officers had the right to take them in for questioning. 

“It started to get crazy,” says Kim. “The president [of France] would give instructions to my school, and then they would contact international students and say, ‘If we show any symptoms let us know and if you missed school, you’ll have to get a doctor’s note explaining why, and whatever you do, do not wear a mask unless you’re sick.’”

In France, selling face masks was illegal. Citizens were only allowed face masks if they were tested positive for COVID-19 and given a mask by the hospital.

“That’s what shook me the most. People were not wearing face masks,” Kim said. 

She also said people would “stare” and give her negative remarks because of her ethnicity. 

“People would look at me and give a stink eye and then cover their mouths,” Kim said. “I can go in the elevator and people would go to the opposite side and make sure they were [as] far as possible away from me.” 

The only time when people would recognize Kim as an Asian American is when she started speaking English. 

“When I came back to the U.S., people would also make [nasty remarks] towards Asian Americans,” Kim said.

She believes people assumed she was a threat because of her ethnicity, despite never contracting COVID-19 during her time abroad. 

“The thought of their fears in me kind of fit in that picture that I could have the coronavirus,” Kim said. “It made me feel like I was a threat to them, including the people around me. But I’m lucky I don’t have it.”

Jordy Pritt, director of ISSS, shared their plan for dealing with COVID-19 and incoming international students. 

ISSS made arrangements to implement virtual orientations, including the required check-in process, for incoming international students that may have problems attending. 

“For students who are not able to make it to the scheduled orientation, we will allow for flexibility to go through the check-in process once they do arrive,” Pritt said. 

ISSS is providing advisement and other support services remotely through phone, chat and video options. 

“Their success at [Georgia State] is our priority so we remain committed to maintaining support and services to them during this time,” Pritt said.