VU is home away from home for international students

 

April 22, 2020

VINCENNES, Ind. –  Home and family are at the center of our lives, providing refuge, safety, sanctuary, and comfort. In a crisis, there’s no place like home. However, some international students are riding out the coronavirus pandemic away from their countries and families due to travel restrictions or other reasons, and are calling Vincennes University home.

VU has a long-established tradition of supporting students and it’s continuing to provide resources to them, while also practicing social distancing, during this unusual time.

“We have a history of support for international students,” VU Assistant Provost for Student Affairs and Dean of Students Lynn White said. “That includes individuals in the community as well as faculty and staff, who work for Vincennes University and because of that relationship, we have created a safe environment and a home away from home for international students where they feel comfortable in coming here and know that they have a support group.”

VU faculty and staff are caring and supporting international students in many ways. The University is providing academic support (just like all students). Those students remaining on campus are living in private dorm rooms and meals are supplied. Transportation is also available to local grocery stores and nearby airports.

Student and volleyball player Jaddy Duarte felt remaining on VU’s campus was her best option rather than return to her home country of Brazil.                                                                                                                                                                                               Jaddy Duarte, Student

“I chose to stay at VU because Vincennes is a small town so, it’s harder to get the virus here than in a big city and because VU staff is taking precautions,” she said. “I feel that if I stay at VU I will stay safe and healthy.”

The University has bolstered its support of students like Duarte and Maxwel Kiplagat, who is from Kenya.

Maxwel Kiplagat, Student

 

Kiplagat is missing his native country and normal routines.

“The biggest challenge is being away from family and being home,” he said.

As an Academic Fellow at VU, Ze (Wade) Chen has been involved in helping VU build bridges through new partnerships with schools and colleges in China. During the recent transition, he has stepped in to provide additional support for VU’s international students and their families.

“I communicate with some of the parents and families of international students through social media,” Chen said. “VU is doing everything possible to make sure their student is well taken care of” is what I told them. I told them that international students are an important part of the VU Family and everybody in the VU Family is concerned for them.”

In this time of social distancing, students and Chen are interacting via a Facebook chat group. They’re sharing their feelings, leaning on each other, and sharing their successes.

Ze (Wade) Chen, VU Academic Fellow

“I communicate with our international students whenever they need me,” Chen said. “I told them that together we will get through this difficult time. I enjoy communicating with international students when they share their academic progress and future plans with me. I am also glad to bring them emotional support.”

Annie Shao is one of 17 international students living in VU housing. She is from China and says she feels happier every day, but sometimes worries. Daily communication with her family eases her concerns and also assures them that she is doing fine.

                                                                   Annie Shao, Student

“My family is worried about me, so I will chat with my parents every day and report my situation to them,” Shao said. “I’m glad I’m healthy. I hope I can get good grades at the end of the term and I hope I can reunite with my family earlier.”

VU student Miyu Isohata, who is living off-campus, chose to stay in Vincennes rather than return home to Japan because she felt being in an airport would put her at risk. She’s doing well and is getting used to quarantined life. She’s watching lots of Netflix, taking walks, and is keeping busy with her coursework.

Miyu Isohata, Student (pictured in center)

She is unsure when she’ll be able to return home.

“To be honest, I really want to go back to Japan to prepare for a career exam from the beginning of June following my plan,” she said. “I have no idea if I can do it or not. I probably will have to stay longer.”

Kiplagat, a runner on the Trailblazers’ track and cross country teams, doesn’t expect to travel home until December. Although the spring sports season was canceled by the NJCAA, Kiplagat opted to remain in Vincennes rather than travel home because he was concerned about traveling and didn’t want to put his family at risk.

Kiplagat and his family are apart physically, but they’re supporting each other and staying in daily communication via WhatsApp, a hugely popular internet messaging app.

“I talk to my family, friends and extended family more now,” he said.

Keeping in touch with family and friends is key during this time of isolation, and most students are touching base with them daily.VU student Jaddy Duarte is from Brazil and checks in daily with her family using WhatsApp.

“At the beginning of the self-isolation, I was talking to my parents for almost five hours per day because it was the beginning of everything. We were worried about where I was going to stay and how everything was going to be also because I was feeling alone. Talking to them was helping me to don’t feel lonely.”

In addition to the constant contact with his family, Kiplagat is doing his best to keep a routine.

“I’m running,” he said. “I’m maintaining my studies. I’ve read a couple of books that I’ve always wanted to read since I have more time. I watch movies and stuff on YouTube.”

Keeping in touch with family and friends is key during this time of isolation, and most students are touching base with them daily.

“At the beginning of the self-isolation, I was talking to my parents for almost five hours per day because it was the beginning of everything,” Duarte said. “We were worried about where I was going to stay and how everything was going to be also because I was feeling alone. Talking to them was helping me to don’t feel lonely. Now after a month of self-isolation, I talk to my parents once a day.”

Sure, home is where the heart is. Yet, VU faculty and staff are doing all they can to make VU a home away from home for international students in this time of crisis.

“When the academic year is over, we will work with all impacted students to explore every viable option for them should the situation prevent students from going home for the summer break,” VU Associate Dean of Students/Judicial Affairs John Livers said. “Also, we will assist them to take online courses if some of them cannot go back to VU in the upcoming fall semester.”

 


 

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