Special Report

Shutdown: The Coronavirus

International students go home

NYU removed all students from their rooms to offer the space as a treatment facility for those infected by Coronavirus. Most of the students have moved out and returned to their hometowns since the rest of the semester will be conducted remotely as online classes. Photo by Ximena Del Cerro.

The hallways at NYU’s residence on 55 Clark Street, Brooklyn, are rarely quiet. The sounds of students coming in and out of their rooms chatting, doors with colorful stickers that read their names on them are swing open and shut close, and the occasional rushed footsteps of someone who is running late as they approach the elevator, are the chorus of the dorm. But on March 2020, those halls went quiet, except for the noise of tape being pulled from a roll and moving boxes being dragged across the floor. 

As the coronavirus began to rage in the United States, colleges across the county started taking precautions. Students were told to stay isolated and take classes remotely to limit their exposure. 

But then the U.S. government started restricting and canceling international flights and shutting borders.  Schools, like New York University, told students to move out of the dorms. Many international students had to go home.

Olivia Rong flew back to her hometown in China, to avoid facing a greater risk of being infected with coronavirus by staying in New York. Photo courtesy of Olivia Rong.

“My parents called me and said the spread of the coronavirus was going to become really severe in the states in a matter of weeks,” said Olivia Rong, a graduate student from Beijing, China, who is halfway through the last semester of her Masters. “They pushed me to buy a plane ticket in early March, and then it became true, the virus is getting really spread out. Flights are now so expensive. I was lucky I flew when I did.” 

There were more than one million international students in the U.S. during 2019. The State of New York ranks second in the country for the international student population after California.. 

International students contributed nearly $41 billion to the country’s economy and supported 458,290 jobs during the 2018-2019 academic year. International students spend more than $5.3 billion a year statewide.

NYU  has the highest number of enrolled international students in the country.

Rong obeyed her parents’ requests as soon as she could and boarded a non-stop flight to Beijing. But Rong is renting an apartment in the city. Her lease is not up until the end of October. Now she is struggling to find someone to cover her rent and spare her from the expense.

 “We will continue to post our information and try to find someone to take over it,” said Rong. “Hopefully, by June, the virus will be under control so that people can live a normal life, and people come to NYC. Then it will be easier.”

China is the largest source of international students in the U.S. making up 40.9% of the foreign enrollments in New York State last year. India ranked second with 16.9%.  

Kajal Maniar flew from New York City to Bombay, India, 11 days ago. Having a pre-existing respiratory condition makes her especially vulnerable to the effects of the coronavirus. She is now in quarantine. Photo courtesy of Kajal Maniar.

“It feels terrible not to be there, and being in quarantine, after everything I had to do to get there,” said Kajal Maniar, a psychology graduate student from Bombay, India. “I remember how tedious the Visa process was. I had to go to an interview, and I remember the officer who conducted it asked me, ‘Are you sure about NYU?’ and I answered, ‘I have never been surer about anything else in my life.”

Maniar lived in the NYU dorms at Washington Square Village until the university removed all students from their rooms to offer the space as a treatment facility for those infected by the coronavirus. 

“We received an email saying that we had to leave in a matter of days unless we had a reason that we considered could exempt us from it,” said Maniar. “Since I had no other place to live, for me that meant flying back to India, getting in a plane for 14 hours with people who could have already been exposed, and since I have asthma, getting sick from coronavirus is a greater risk, but they said I still had to leave.” 

Maniar flew back home and is now continuing her classes online while staying in quarantine. She plans to be back in the city  for the fall semester.

Everyone who leaves the U.S. is considered to be “high risk”  and is advised to go into absolute isolation for 10 to 14 days. Countries around the world have issued official lockdowns on nonessential businesses and schools. 

Sweden is not one of them. The Scandinavian country is drawing global attention by only shutting its high schools and colleges, but keeping its preschools, grade schools, and borders open. Many Swedish students abroad have gone back home.

Tanya Kireeva packs her belongings to move out of her dorm at 55 Clark Street, Brooklyn. Like many international students in New York City, she returned to her hometown after the outbreak of the Coronavirus. Photo by Ximena del Cerro.

“I always wanted to live in New York, so I had to save a lot of money and finally put all my life savings towards that,” said Tanya Kireeva, a Swedish undergrad exchange student at NYU who lived at the school’s dorms on 55 Clark Street. “I prepared for two years, and every time I went to bed, I dreamed about that, and every time I woke up, I thought about that.”

 As she emptied her drawers and put her belonging in three big boxes marked with her address in Stockholm, she texted friends who she had met in New York. 

“First, they said that the classes were going to be online until April,” said Kireeva. “That was disappointing because I had just started being friends with the people I met in my second semester here. Now that we can’t go back to school for the rest of this semester, I’ve decided to go back home to save some of my money since I don’t think to spend it all while in quarantine is worth it. I might come back to New York  to visit, but I won’t come back to study and some people I might not see again.”

 


Tags


Other Stories in Special Report: Shutdown: The Coronavirus

A tribute to the mask pioneers

Bohao Liu July 11, 2020

Air pollution in China rebounds to pre-COVID level

Hannah Zhang July 11, 2020

ICE takes aim at international students

Maria Abreu July 10, 2020

Chinese students trapped by new ICE policy

Zishu Sherry Qin July 10, 2020

New ICE policy adds more turmoil to the lives of international students

Shiyu Xu July 10, 2020

Lawsuits follow ICE policy barring international students who are taking online classes

Joanna Lin Su July 10, 2020

Economists say the US needs a bold, generous fiscal response. Congress is likely to disappoint. 

Ahmed Mohamed July 9, 2020

Overseas Singaporeans have pandemic obstacles to voting

Yifan Yu July 9, 2020

Proximity sensors and hygiene stations are the “new normal”

Joanna Lin Su July 9, 2020

 Tour ticket vendors miss the hustle and bustle of Times Square

Narkwor Kwabla July 8, 2020

Dengue outbreak could be a greater threat than covid in Singapore

Yifan Yu July 8, 2020

Corporate bankruptcy: ‘A story that’s not going away’

Gaurav Sharma July 7, 2020

Beijing reopens as the second wave of coronavirus dies down

Hannah Zhang July 6, 2020

Masks or no masks?

Bohao Liu July 5, 2020

Varsity Flu

Madeline Gunderson July 3, 2020

Rail travel in China is popular during the pandemic and filled with safety measures

Bohao Liu July 3, 2020

Brazilian international student caught in US travel ban.

Marina Guimaraes July 3, 2020

MTA faces crisis following COVID shutdown

Daniel Girma July 2, 2020

Easter Market goes back to its roots

Kyla Milberger July 2, 2020

China’s Airline Industry Aims to Lure Back Passengers with Unlimited Flight Pass

Zishu Sherry Qin July 1, 2020

US corporate debt soars during coronavirus outbreak

Gaurav Sharma June 30, 2020

In Singapore, gay pride goes online

Yifan Yu June 29, 2020

The Hair Room reopens

Shiyu Xu June 29, 2020

A second wave of the coronavirus creates travel woes in Beijing

Hannah Zhang June 29, 2020

Despite a few bumps, NYC is social distancing more than not

Joanna Lin Su June 29, 2020

Backyard music lessons

Madeline Gunderson June 28, 2020

Experts say ISIS exploits chaos of global pandemic to rebuild

Marina Guimaraes June 26, 2020

Cutting through COVID

Thomas Hengge June 26, 2020

Venezuelan government leaves residents stranded in U.S. during pandemic

Maria Abreu June 23, 2020

Vulnerable communities fear eviction as COVID-19 rent morotorium comes to an end

Jonathan Sarabia June 22, 2020

Beijing is China’s new epicenter for the coronavirus

Hannah Zhang June 22, 2020

Clock is ticking for NYC restaurants even as outdoor dining resumes  

Gaurav Sharma June 20, 2020

Michigan hair salons are back in business

Kyla Milberger June 17, 2020

Seafood markets in China lose business over new COVID-19 scare

Bohao Liu June 17, 2020

China resorts to street vending to revive its economy

Hannah Zhang June 16, 2020

The East Village is open! Well, sort of

Thomas Hengge June 15, 2020

My trip home during the pandemic

Zishu Sherry Qin June 15, 2020

Popular India Square “won’t be the same again” 

Gaurav Sharma June 13, 2020

Feds will not raise its key interest rate until 2022 and project slow recovery

Zishu Sherry Qin June 11, 2020

Despite pandemic, thousands of Syrians protest against government as economy collapses

Marina Guimaraes June 10, 2020

On the frontline of two deadly viruses

Narkwor Kwabla June 10, 2020

Bronx fish market struggles to stay afloat during pandemic

Daniel Girma June 9, 2020

Venezuelans leave behind a country in crisis only to encounter a new crisis in New York

Maria Abreu June 8, 2020

China promotes street vendors to reboot the economy

Bohao Liu June 8, 2020

For the developmentally disabled, COVID-19 brings new challenges

Kyla Milberger June 7, 2020

Giving food to Staten island vulnerable communities during the lockdown

Alpha Kamara June 6, 2020

Hong Kongers gather despite COVID-19 ban on Tiananmen vigil

Yifan Yu June 4, 2020

Army returns home after completing COVID-19 mission in New York 

Maria Abreu June 4, 2020

Ailana’s life in quarantine

Talgat Almanov June 3, 2020

Venezuela has another obstacle: the pandemic

Marina Guimaraes June 3, 2020