Shortly after the NBA suspended its season and the 2020 NCAA Tournament was canceled, Jasmine Simmons, an Australian international student playing basketball at Oregon State University, realized just how much the coronavirus could impact her life.
The virus, which started in China and has since spread around the world, has infected nearly 245,000 people and killed more than 10,000 as of early Friday, according to the Johns Hopkins University data dashboard. In the last week, millions of people have been forced to work from home or lost their jobs, countries have closed borders and schools have moved to online learning models, effectively closing campuses.
The pandemic has left international students of all ages scrambling: Do they stay in America? Do they go home and risk being quarantined in an unfamiliar place? What happens if, or when, dorms are closed permanently?
“It’s stressful,” said Simmons, a 21-year-old sophomore from Mildura, Australia, located in the southeast part of the country. “I want to be with my family, but going to the airport seems like the worst decision right now. Also, if I left, I don’t know when I’d be able to get back. It’s been a pretty emotional week.”
It’s been a anxiety-filled week, too, Simmons said: Watching the news and talking with her family has been “eye-opening."
“Fear," she said, "has been instilled in so many people.”
That includes students thousands of miles from their families. Hundreds of colleges across the U.S. have closed their campuses, canceling in-person classes, moving to online learning modules and encouraging students to head home while they wait out the virus.
When home is across the ocean, that’s not easy.