With canceled classes and a deserted campus, many students are left feeling uncertain of the future. Although the University made adjustments to combat the ongoing outbreak, international students still face problems, far away from their families with little opportunity to go home.
Biology graduate assistant Saachi Chugh, the Building Committee Chair for the International Student Association, said the coronavirus, along with the campus shutdown, announced March 12, is making life difficult for international students.
“In general it is having a major impact on internationals, because first of all, the campus is closed,” Chugh said. “We could’ve gone home but we cannot because of the whole chaos of the flights.”
With air travel not recommended and many countries limiting entry, international students don’t know when they will be able to return home or see family. Chugh faces this issue herself. Her parents are in India, while her brother lives in Canada with a similar problem.
“We can’t even go home, we are just stuck here. It’s getting more and more difficult,” Chugh said. “He’s stuck in his own place, I’m stuck in my own place. It’s just getting worse by the day, I feel.”
Chugh’s parents check in with her frequently, calling twice a day to make sure she is still doing well. Many international students don’t have cars, and with the unreliable bus systems and rumors of places like Walmart shutting down, Chugh is worried that students will be left stranded. Chugh said she hopes the University addresses international student concerns soon, including the ability to obtain necessary supplies.
“The University’s trying to do as much as they can, but I feel they should come up with a good plan as soon as possible for everyone,” Chugh said. “Since we knew this problem was going to come up and it’s springing upon us, I feel that they should have thought about all these issues a little.”
According to LSU Budget & Planning, as of Fall 2019 there were about 1,599 students from outside the U.S. This small group of international students is fairly interconnected, according to Chugh. They are especially communicative now. She and other members of the International Student Association have been discussing ways to support each other, communicating through WhatsApp and planning an in-person discussion in the future, after things become calmer.
The International Student Association is also functioning as a support network, an outlet for other international students who want to address all their concerns.
“We basically talk about all the issues and the chaos that’s going on, how it’s impacting us, how it’s impacting other people, how it’s impacting our families back home,” Chugh said. “We are trying to be there for each other at this moment, until things settle down a bit.”
ISA president and comparative biomedical science graduate student Liana Baconguis said that her plans have also been somewhat derailed; her family was planning on visiting her in the summer, which is no longer looking certain. While her parents are concerned, Baconguis said they understand she is at less risk in the U.S. than in the Philippines.
“It’s survivable for me so far. While they’re worried, they know I’m better off staying here, because the situation back home, it’s not very good,” Baconguis said. “A lot of it is being mismanaged, and our healthcare system doesn’t have the same capabilities that the U.S. healthcare system has, for all its flaws, so I’m probably better off here than I am there.”
The ISA is planning on acting as a resource for stranded international students, according to Baconguis. Besides keeping in touch with other students to discuss concerns, she said the organization had a few ideas in the works, potentially thinking of starting a volunteer grocery system, or just simply emailing everyone and seeing what they need.
“I want them to know that whatever they need, they can just forward it to us and then we can find a way to help them, Baconguis said.”
According to Baconguis, the LSU Office of the President called offering support for the ISA, but it’s uncertain how things will proceed. In a March 17 statement from the LSU President’s Office, Galligan said that the University would help students face future challenges.
“I understand this is a time of great uncertainty, especially for those of you who have come to LSU from other countries. While I can’t claim to understand the stress of being so far away from loved ones during this unprecedented situation, I am thinking of you and want to do whatever we can to help you,” the email stated.
Baconguis said she appreciated the support, but she wasn’t sure what would be done in the upcoming months.
“The problem is no one know what to do in this situation,” Baconguis said. “It’s complicated.”