As an International Student, This Has Been Especially Hard for Me

When news that China was facing a new virus became public to the entire world, I was a staff writer for Saint Leo University’s student-run newspaper, The Lion’s Pride Media Group and I covered the story. The article I wrote is titled A Health Crisis Strikes the Citizens of China: How Has the Threat of the New Virus Influenced the Country? At the time, I thought that I would write the story—and then forget about it. However, as time went on and news about this virus spread, I slowly realized that neither the story, nor the virus, were going away.

My journey to acceptance

As a student at Saint Leo, I only saw glimpses of the chaos that the virus was causing worldwide. A classmate who worked at Publix told our class how the stores and warehouses were out of hand sanitizer. I convinced myself that some people were blowing this out of proportion, but then I heard about the man who bought nearly 18,000 hand sanitizer products hoping to cash in on coronavirus. It started to sink in that people’s desperation wasn’t just melodrama, it was real. 

By the time Spring Break rolled around, the need for people to stay safe was common knowledge, and I could no longer avoid the obvious. Since I already suffer from Obsessive Compulsive Disorder and am constantly double-checking things, the reality of COVID-19 made me even more panicked about my surroundings, especially when I was in the airport and I had to be around people who were wearing masks. While I traveled through multiple airports and US states, I was afraid that I might catch the virus, with people constantly moving, I can’t know exactly where everyone has been.

Life in the Bahamas while in isolation

On the first Saturday of my college Spring Break, I took a connecting flight from Tampa to Miami and from Miami to my home country, the Bahamas. As of March 26, the Bahamas had only five cases and no confirmed deaths. I intend to stay in the Bahamas at my family’s residence on the island of New Providence during the pandemic. 

Currently, nobody I know has been infected with the virus but the Bahamian government has closed most stores besides essential goods and services. All I can do for now is stay home and focus on my online classes. While I’ve always been a bit of a homebody, it’s easy to feel trapped when you don’t have any other option. 

My main fear centers around my parents and I worry for my friends and classmates too. Since my parents are self-employed in the tourism business as taxi drivers, they are in danger from their interactions with the public. 

Since the Bahamas is dependent on its tourism industry, the travel restrictions on flights and cruises will mean a critical blow to the Bahamian economy. While money is not a personal concern right now, I can only imagine the desperation Bahamian citizens will face in the coming weeks and months as they try to survive this pandemic and its aftermath.

Moving forward

For now, I’m going to remain in the Bahamas. I don’t travel far from my house to prevent contracting the virus. Until the beginning of May when my semester ends, I continue to work to pass all my courses via canvas, D2l, my university email address, and using the program called Zoom that enables me to speak directly with my professors and classmates.

While I’m managing to get through my classes, it is sometimes a struggle trying to pull myself away from news updates through the Internet and the local Bahamian newspapers. Even if I wanted to distance myself from this issue for just a day it would be impossible. This pandemic affects the entire world, and it’s all anyone is talking about. 

Keeping up with the news is vital for keeping me and my family safe and reassuring us that this pandemic shall end soon but it’s a double-edged sword. It’s sobering to watch the number of victims increase and to face the fact that a vaccine may be a long time coming. 

I worry that this pandemic is nowhere close to ending, meaning I won’t be able to travel back to the US to attend on-campus classes and see my friends in person anytime soon. 

But, no matter how long it takes, I still have hope that the world will come together to tackle and solve this issue. This isn’t the first time I have feared that a conflict will last and like all conflicts, I know this one will pass as they all eventually do.

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Lester Williams attends Saint Leo University, where he is working towards a degree in Professional Writing. Prior to his time at Saint Leo, Lester had spent his entire life in the Bahamas on the island of New Providence.

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