Students are buzzing with the excitement of returning to campus, but out-of-state and international students still have some concerns.
In the fall, the Queens community moved to a virtual layout to preserve the health and safety of their students. The months leading up to this decision were full of plans to move onto campus, including changing housing arrangements, putting quarantine policies into place, and a plan to revise all classrooms and common areas to reduce congestion.
As we move forward into the spring semester, the return plan continues to be updated. There have been many physical updates to the campus to preserve the health and distancing that is needed to promote a healthy and successful semester as well as hybrid courses, putting students in and out of classrooms.
While the plan for this semester looks hopeful, it impacts all students, but especially out-of-state and international students. Being an out-of-state student myself from Warsaw, Indiana, there are concerns about the lack of notice we had last time about the school closing and a repeat this semester. Or, even worse, a Chapel Hill situation that throws our families on our heads trying to get back home after we move in.
In the fall, when the plans were beginning to emerge for opening and the developed protective measures, three students I spoke to were skeptical.
Amy Krenchel is an international student from Sweden and she was concerned about the rising number of cases and deaths, saying, “All the experts over here [Sweden] were telling us that a second wave was going to come during the fall when everyone returned from vacation and/or lockdown and went back to normal routines. “
Her concern about the fall opening plan was echoed with a ring of false hope by Agul Deng, an out-of-state student from West Virginia. Deng plays basketball and moved onto campus anyway. However, she was looking forward to connecting with her professors and peers and having a traditional year.
During the original period of opening plans, she was skeptical. But when the first day of classes was announced that turned into hope and excitement which just made the closure that much more “devastating.”
Speaking with Krenchel on the difficulties of being an international student in the uncertainty of our return, she said she was lucky enough not to experience significant travel expenses. She hadn’t begun her travel to North Carolina at the beginning of the fall semester, although other students had.
There are already significant concerns from last semester that Alivia Chinsio, a student from Florida, pointed out.
“I think we may have to stay in our dorms and do online from there,” which came to be true within days after moving in this semester.
Chinsio and Deng also have concerns about campus closing in the beginning or middle of the semester. This seems unlikely but is dependent on the students following the precautions and rules put into place. Deng says that our Queens campus has “one-third of the students on campus as UNC-Chapel Hill.” so a similar situation is less likely.
However, despite the emails and updates that sound optimistic, Krenchel says they’re “not really reassuring” because there is no discussion about a possible campus closure.
All three students professed a desire to have a warning and a plan in place in case another campus closure does happen.
Krenchel, having an outside perspective, said she would like to see a plan that was built on communication. She is worried about the lack of discussion about closures, virtual assignments and the time zone differences for students not in Eastern standard time. This is a problem for students coming from California, Tennessee, or parts of Florida where the time zones differ.
As coronavirus cases continue to rise in Mecklenburg county, the lack of hope about hybrid classes starting back up is a popular topic through the residence halls. Not only is there a high case count, but there is a new strain spreading through the country. On Jan 23 The News & Observer reported that this new strain should have us locking down on prevention procedures and taking extra care, acting as though any case of COVID-19 will be this new strain.
This time of uncertainty and plans up in the air is wearing on all students, faculty, and administration and leaves unanswered questions: what are classrooms going to look like? Will there be smaller class sizes even in the hybrid classes? Will we be stuck in our dorms most of the time?
Will we ever get to sit in the dining hall and eat with our peers, or will we have to sit outside, stretched across the lawn all semester? What plans are in place to protect international students and support them if they cannot get to campus or cannot get home?
If the campus does close in the middle of the semester with recent and ongoing developments, what plans are there to help students without the financial means to get home? What policies will be enforced on campus and to what degree? Will we get to leave campus and explore the city or will we be confined to Queens’ grounds?
All these questions seem daunting and they may not have answers worked out by the administrative teams yet, but the students are wanting some clear answers, but not if that will just turn around and change. We can live in uncertainty for a while longer if it means we get to stay on campus and have an (almost) normal end of the year.