With the announcement that Pittsburg State University course work would be online for the remainder of the semester and the residence halls closing down, many students returned home for the rest of the semester as campus closed down.
For international students, however, they face the dilemma of returning to their home country or staying in Pittsburg.
Miso Finne, graduate student in literature, a student from Finland ended his exchange at PSU early by making the decision to return to his home country.
“The key thing was to act fast, no matter how frantic and uncontrollable the situation seemed at that moment,” Finne said.
Finne made the decision to return to Finland as he did not know what would happen if he had to remain in the U.S. for an uncertain amount of time, due to the closing of borders.
“Many countries have rapidly been closing their borders, therefore I could not risk being stuck in the U.S. and have my visa run out,” Finne said. “For as much as I valued my time there as an experience, I was not going to chance it being refused treatment or any other complications that may have arisen as a result of my non-citizen status.”
Finne is among other students who have left PSU to return to their home countries.
A number of students, however, have decided to remain in Pittsburg and on campus.
Modou Diop, a student in the Intensive English Program (IEP), from Senegal made the decision to stay in Pittsburg due to “uncertainty and fear” and to keep his family safe if he was exposed to the virus.
“(I dealt with) uncertainty because we’re dealing with a virus whose spread is virtually uncontrollable,” Diop said. “You can never be sure of anything. You either already have it or you’re exposed to it. Besides, I live more than six hours away from the airport, and anything can happen between two airports. So, the risk of contagion is higher. On the other hand, if I am infected and come home with this virus, I could infect my whole family and I will never forgive myself. So, for me the best way to protect myself and my family is to stay in Pittsburg.”
Diop said the decision to stay was not easy.
“It’s never so easy to give up being with your family, but in the end it’s all about making the right choice for me and my family,” Diop said.
Yu Chen Lin, senior in communication, a student from Taiwan also made the decision to stay in Pittsburg as she believes it currently isn’t safe to fly and would like to spend the rest of her time with the friends she made.
“…my exchange program is only for one semester, my time here is so precious that I really don’t want to go back earlier,” Lin said. “I love my friends here and I want to spend more time with them. I work so hard to get myself here, so I really don’t want to end it by myself. I don’t want to be the one that makes the decision to leave and regret it later.”
The decision to stay or leave was not an easy one to make on either side. Finne ultimately believes his choice was the right one for him.
“It was emotionally difficult to leave behind some of the international community at PSU, who I may not be able to meet ever again,” Finne said. “However, there’s really no other place I’d want to be in right now than here, back home, where I know I’ll be safe.”
For the students who decided to stay in Pittsburg, residence halls remained open for international students and all were placed in the Crimson Commons on campus.
“Residence hall students with demonstrated need to remain living on campus were allowed to do so,” said Connie Malle, University Housing Director. “Less then 60 students were approved and remain on campus. Students that were located in other facilities besides Crimson Commons were required to move. Students already residing in Crimson Commons will stay in their location at Crimson Commons. The majority of students were moved to an apartment of their own or were relocated with an existing roommate.”
Students will have meals provided for them by Sodexo through a delivered drop-off at the residence hall. A limited number of staff will also be staying to help the students and perform limited essential functions. Additionally, students are reminded to follow the social distancing process.
“Students are reminded to follow the social distancing process and to not gather, following the most recent orders from the county and the state,” Malle said. “Students need to stay safe and follow social distancing, washing their hands, etc.”