OPINION: How COVID-19 ruined my senior year as an international student

As an international student, I was frightened when I saw the pictures of empty supermarket shelves on my social media feed because it was at that point that I realized I was all alone in this and that I had to survive and take care of myself. 


I started panic shopping because that’s what I thought I should do. I went to four grocery shops just to get the food I needed, but the hunt for a face mask and hand sanitizer was the ultimate mission. I went to Walgreens every day first thing in the morning waiting for them to restock hand sanitizers and gloves, and I finally got some after a whole week.


My dad is a journalist, and he is pretty caught up in the news and knows what is happening around the world. He was keeping track of all the coronavirus case numbers and saw the pictures of the long lines in grocery shops. He also found out that almost all schools were closed and that everyone was shifting to working remotely. My parents kept calling me every day to ask me if I needed money or if I had enough food because, ‘The situation in the U.S. is not great,’ as they said. 


When we found out that school was canceled for the rest of the semester, a lot of my international friends started going back to their home countries because they thought it would be safer for them to be with their families.


Stress and anxiety started to kick in. At first, I was scared of running out of supplies, and now I’m wondering if it’s best for me to go home to be with my family so I can be safe, but I was terrified of the idea of going on an airplane because I thought that it would be too risky in these circumstances. I called my dad, and we agreed I would stay in Kent. We thought it’d be best because I had to keep up with school work.


The next morning, I woke up to a text from my dad saying he saw on the local news that they’re closing the airport and that the Omani Embassy is sending airplanes to the U.S. to bring Omani students home. It felt like we were all in a war and that the world was crumbling.


The decision making was the hardest thing I had to do. I didn’t know when I was going to be able to come back to Kent, and I knew that I wouldn’t be able to keep up with school and work if I went home, but my parents pushed me into going back home. I wasn’t in a stable mental state to make a decision like that. I was afraid of the unknown and of what can or will happen during this pandemic. So I let my parents decide it for me. 


When I got back home, I had to isolate myself for 14 days in a hotel room just to make sure that I was okay and not sick.


The hotel experience wasn’t that great. Spending 14 days by yourself in a tiny space can get to you. 


I tried to keep myself busy with school work and doing all my assignments. I had difficulties attending my classes because of the time difference, but I managed to do it since I had a lot of free time in quarantine.  


Not everyone can get the opportunity to study abroad, and since I’m a senior and next semester is my last, I originally wanted to take advantage of the opportunity to do more things that would benefit me and help me grow as a person. I promised myself that I would be more active and productive. I wanted to work and travel more, but now I don’t know if I will because even if the university is open in the fall, my country’s airport may not be open. All I can do now is pray and hope for the best to happen.

Contact Sara Al Harthi at [email protected].