Chunxiao Yang, an international student from Beijing, China and a sophomore double–majoring in sociology and Asian and Asian American studies, had a ticket booked to go home on March 13 amid concerns about the coronavirus.
But ultimately, Yang canceled her ticket back to China. She was worried about taking such a long flight back in close proximity to other people, and she did not want to potentially bring the virus back home, where cases had started to decrease.
In the following weeks, the severity of the pandemic became evident in the United States, and Yang began looking for another flight back with no luck. She has seen multiple tickets canceled in the past few weeks, and now, she is trapped thousands of miles from home.
“My second flight ticket in May just got canceled last week, so right now I’m still looking for tickets, but I think I’m going to spend the summer here,” Yang said. “It’s so hard to find a flight ticket. It’s expensive, and we don’t know if it’s going to be canceled.”
Yang said studying would have been hard had she returned to China, as she would have to install a program that allowed her to access the internet from servers on the other side of the world. But even in the United States, she, like many other BU students, is still facing difficulties studying online away from home.
“I feel like the pandemic is infecting my emotions, it makes it much harder to focus,” Yang said. “In China, Google is blocked, and you need a [virtual private network] to access it — it’s much harder.”
Yang isn’t the only international student stuck without a way home. Can Yi, a freshman majoring in psychology and an international student from Jiangsu, China, had three flights canceled and believes he will have to spend the summer in Binghamton. However, he said the pandemic is impacting his ability to find a place to stay.
“I rent[ed] another room near the University and both people [living there] are seniors who were going to leave, but their flights were canceled too,” Yi said. “They cannot go home, and I can’t move in.”
Tavish Srivastava, a junior majoring in computer science and an international student from Mumbai, India, has also had problems finding a way to get back home.
“I can’t go back home because they shut off all the airspaces,” Srivastava said. “They extended quarantine until April 31, and I don’t know if they’ll extend it again. If they extend it again, I won’t be able to fly back.”
Adding to the stress, some international students are also facing racism at BU and in the local community as the virus spreads. Yang said she has not personally had any bad experiences, but has seen her international student friends targeted and President Donald Trump repeatedly refer to the coronavirus as the “Chinese virus.”
Others are increasingly concerned about their families on the other side of the world. Srivastava said the situation in India is dire, especially in his home city. According to Srivastava, people who are stuck in the city for work are walking back to their villages and dying on the way because the buses are shut down and they do not have anything to eat.
“What’s happening is they’ve made everybody go on lockdown — you can’t leave your apartment, you can’t do anything like go downstairs or go for a walk,” Srivastava said. “My parents can’t leave their apartment.”
The lockdown is having a negative impact on his mother’s business, which is affecting him personally, Srivastava said.
“My mom runs her own business, and business is at a halt,” he said. “I need the money to go through college, and, with her business at a halt, I can’t do college.”
Srivastava has a ticket booked for May 15, but he believes it will be canceled. He has a place to stay over the summer but said he is worried about what could happen if anything were to go wrong.
“There’s just so many factors, it’s just scary over here,” Srivastava said. “What if I can’t pay my rent this month? What if I don’t have a place to stay, what do I do in a country that I can’t leave? What if I get the virus, what if I’m in need for a ventilator, and I can’t get it?”