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International students face housing challenges, upheaval amid campus closure

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Charles Green
Staff Writer

For the past several weeks, everyday life for University of La Verne students has been a whirlwind of emotion and uncertainty. For international students in particular, the need to make a fast decision to either stay on a mostly deserted campus or move back home was one they never thought they would encounter.

On March 13, the last day before spring break, University officials announced that the campus would close for the rest of the year, and all classes would go online, a measure similar to most universities across the nation to help curb the spread of the novel coronavirus.

Most of the dorms were closed, and students were encouraged to move out if they could to protect themselves and others against the pandemic.

The University currently has a significant core of international students; totaling more than 650 from all corners of the world. Instead of spending their spring break at California’s great sights, the majority of international students were faced with the daunting realization that they would be packing their bags for home with no near return in sight.

International students expressed how this is a particularly hard point in time for them – particularly seniors in the class of 2020.

Norwegian senior economics major Henrik Skogseth said the last few weeks have been tough to come to terms with.

“It’s been a pretty rough and emotional time,” Skogseth said. “To have your last two-and- a-half months of college to go, only having one day to say goodbye to everyone and go home, kind of left me feeling robbed.”

Skogseth, who is now back home in quarantine with his family in Oslo, Norway, understands the current situation and believes the University is doing the best it can considering. He hopes that he has not had his final step on campus and the University finds a way to let him and his fellow graduating classmates have the chance to walk at commencement in the future.

Another senior in a similar situation is German business administration major Justin Eller-Hughes.

Eller-Hughes said the week the news broke of campus closing, he felt panicked, and he remembers being on his phone from morning until night with his parents back home in Hamburg, Germany.

Eller-Hughes thinks the University has been doing an adequate job transitioning classes to online, but they need to encourage professors to keep in mind international students are now having to deal with huge time differences.

“I have class from 2:50 to 6:00 in the morning, and it’s just impossible to concentrate at that time,” Eller-Hughes said.

Eller-Hughes believes the best solution is for professors to post lectures online for students to view at any time during the day.

Back in La Verne, sophomore math and economics major Murphy Li has had a turbulent experience of his own. Li, who decided not to return home to Hong Kong, believed that he could stay on campus in his dormitory during the pandemic. However, Li recently moved off campus.

“I have now had to move off campus because I heard nothing about being able to stay. I got no response over email for five days,” Li said.

Li, frustrated by the current situation, said he hopes the housing department will be clearer in communicating information. They should also treat international students differently to students who have homes nearby, Li said.

The international admissions staff at the University have also had a rough time trying to respond to the coronavirus pandemic.

Acting director of admissions Adam Wu said his team is working extremely hard dealing with the situation as it has been changing by the day. Their main priority is to be there as support for international students.

“My advice would be to reach out, reach out for assistance, or reach out if it’s just needing to talk things through because we are here to help,” said Wu.

In this crazy time, the University has put a focus on the well-being of their students and community. If needed, students are encouraged to contact the Student Outreach and Support. More information can be found at laverne.edu/student-affairs/sos.

Charles Green can be reached at charles.green@laverne.edu.

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