Juggling a Pandemic While Being 6,724 Miles from Home

International Students Feature

Attending college halfway across the world is an interesting experience in itself. Add to that the stress and fear that comes with a global pandemic, and this becomes a wild and fearful experience of a lifetime. At least, this is true for Yujiro Yamada, a second-year graduate student of exercise science from Ibaraki, Japan. 

Photo courtesy: Dawson Wilson

One of the most obvious concerns of international students was the proposed travel restrictions that attempted to prohibit international students from returning to their respective universities at the beginning of the school year. The federal government attempted to restrict international students from coming to the United States if they did not have any in-person or hybrid classes. 

“I was a bit cautious when the U.S. government presented that international students who do not have any in-class or hybrid classes cannot stay in the U.S. It was very good to hear that the request was denied. Travel restriction was my biggest concern,” said Yamada. 

While typical Americans remain rightfully concerned about their loved ones’ health during a global pandemic, international students’ worries are even more magnified. When deciding between traveling home or staying at school over winter break, students had to choose between not seeing their families for an extremely long time, or the health concerns associated with international travel. 

If Yamada traveled home, he would have to quarantine for two weeks in his home country, Japan, and then add another two weeks upon his return to America. 

“Due to those weeks of self-quarantine in Japan and the United States, I hesitated to go back to Japan for winter break. But my grandmother is not in good condition, so I really wanted to see her so badly,” said Yamada. 

As a graduate student, Yamada is involved in research, which has created a unique issue for him and his work. Being in Japan, far away from his research team, made the work very difficult. However, being reunited with his team has alleviated some of that stress. 

“It was very hard and stressful working at home [Japan] until mid-July. Currently, I can work at the office with my team, so I feel much better,” said Yamada.

The feeling of isolation is something everyone can relate to during this pandemic. Yamada shares the ways in which he copes with these feelings. 

“I am an outgoing person, so not talking to anyone for the whole day was very painful,” said Yamada. “So, a Zoom meeting with my team, talking with my friends and families on the phone were the main events for the day. I even studied with my lab-mate while FaceTiming him to maintain the focus on work.” 

In addition to connecting with his friends and family, Yamada explains that he enjoys physical activity to ease his stress. 

“During self-quarantine, I frequently went to walk around the apartment complex and do exercise outside, which was helpful to get me in shape and reduce stress,” said Yamada. 

International students were dealt a tough hand this school year. They were put in unique situations. As we all continue to face uncertainties, these students must handle struggles that domestic students do not. Acknowledging and understanding these additional struggles is important so that international students may be supported adequately during this time.