Letter to the Editor: Your new e-bill is now available

I want to go back to school this fall, for sure. That is my main purpose to go to the U.S.; to study in class, to have interactions and to have a new environment. Schools and colleges are working hard and are struggling to reopen in the fall. But, I’m struggling too. 

How can I survive at an unprepared campus? How can I feel safe when not only the campus but also the gym opens? How will I handle all the exorbitant fees that every international student who is making every effort to survive in the pandemic has to pay? 

My name is Trang Pham and I’m an international student at Georgia State University. Despite my overwhelming desire to go back to campus for classes, I do not think Georgia State should be reopening all facilities like the gyms and the buses and I don’t want to be charged fees for services I’m not going to use. 

College students fully expect radical differences in campus life in the fall, with temperature checking, mask wearing and probably no sport events. It would also be reasonable to expect a change in the fees, but it turns out the fees are exactly the same. 

Nobody ever explains to me why we still have to pay for the Recreation Fee, Athletic Fee, Activity Fee and Transportation Fee in the pandemic. Even though I want the campus to reopen and encourage myself to go back to campus for in-person class, it doesn’t mean that I’m ready to be back on the school bus, in the campus pool or gym or hanging out at the stadium — at least till the end of this year. 

Even though the school tried to communicate to students that they are preparing for the new normality, it clearly doesn’t mean that everything will go back to the normal-past. Georgia State shouldn’t open stadiums, shouldn’t have big events and gather a lot of people; Georgia State shouldn’t open the gym, shouldn’t have school busses running again; Georgia State shouldn’t encourage students to use and join all these activities. 

And without all of these activities, I don’t see any reason for such fees. No doubt, it is a considerable amount of money, but more importantly, it shows a certain indifference of the school to the students. Please understand that tuition and fees are always a heavy burden for a student, not to mention an international student gripped by the fear of studying and handling everything in this pandemic, which I’m not sure when will end. Is the number one priority now, rather than assisting students to be able to be back to school, placing more financial burden on them? 

Any show needs rehearsal. Think about it: When thousands of students are back to the campus, some believe in masks, some don’t. My sister, who is an instructor in Vietnam, had to wear masks to class in February, but she couldn’t ask all of her students to wear masks like her. And remember, it is Vietnam, where wearing masks is mandatory, where they have less than 400 COVID-19 cases and no deaths, as of June 30.  

If I get the virus, will student insurance cover the prohibitive cost? If somebody carries the virus and spreads it out, how will the school handle it when contact tracing is not being used in the U.S.? It’s a scary picture that I could not imagine, and is as scary as the e-bill available on my account right now. 

Like a lot of professors who don’t feel safe going to campus to teach, I don’t feel safe going to campus to study. More than anyone, I believe all international students want to be back to campus. I didn’t expect to travel that far to study online. However, think about the campus right now with all the rules of the pandemic if we reopen, the values that students have in the classroom are totally lost. Being six feet apart, (hopefully) recognizing lecturers and friends by their eyes, is this the class that you want to see? Is this the stadium that you want to experience? Is this the gym that you want to go to?