International students of Andhra University share their lockdown stories

Had COVID-19 not brought the world to its knees, 40-year-old Solomon Abrha should have been home in Ethiopia with his family. Instead, he is cooped up in his room at the Andhra University’s International Students Hostel. There are others too like him, who could not make their way back home and now spend their days indoors with only Over The Top streaming services and online games as their companions.

Solomon moved to Visakhapatnam three years ago from Gondar to pursue his studies in Social Work. “I completed my Ph.D. in February and had a flight back home on April 13. But when the lockdown was announced with hardly a few hours notice there was nothing I could do. I am now waiting for India to open its borders and allow international flights,” says Solomon. “I spend my days cooking, watching series, and catching up with my family over video calls. They are constantly worried as the number of cases is increasing each passing day in India. Ethiopia's state is better than India and my family is safe. They keep giving me news updates and reiterate the safety measures I should follow whenever I step out to buy essentials,” he says.

This lockdown, Tran Thi Lanh, a Ph.D student from Vietnam at AU’s Anthropology Department is spending his time honing his cooking skills. “Now that I have so much of time , I am trying to make simple Indian dishes like rice and dal, pulao and some local vegetables. Before this, I hardly ate anything other than ramen,” he says. The first thing he plans to do after the lockdown ends is to go see his family. “We take so many things for granted and only extreme situations like these teach us the importance of simple things like a cup of tea by the beach or being able to board a flight and go home,” he adds.

Tran Thi moved to Visakhapatnam last year in July after completing his masters in Guntur. “While studying there, I used to visit Visakhapatnam often for my flights and I loved its coastline and hills. That is why I moved here to pursue my Ph.D. When I go back I will definitely miss the warmth of the people in Visakhapatnam and the way they help outsiders. Ill also miss the very spicy food that they make,” he laughs.

Image for representation purpose only.

Image for representation purpose only.   | Photo Credit: AFP

Relying on art

For 35-year-old Lyda, who is from Colombia, USA, her easel, brushes, and colours are her constant companions. A student of Andhra University's Fine Arts Department, Lyda is transferring her emotions onto her canvas. “I spend hours painting my memories from places that I have visited . I loved visiting markets and have made several friends at Poorna Market and in the fishing community at Jalaripeta. But now, all I can do is recall the old times andrecreate them Living alone for the past five weeks, I am starved for human touch. The first thing I will do once theyrelax the restrictions is to go to the beach and enjoy the feel of the morning sun on my face.”

Lyda says she is not too distraught that she could not make it back home on time.“In the initial days I was , But now I am glad I stayed. I spend so much time talking to my family because I am worried about the situation there. The lockdown has brought us closer and we talk to each other more now than ever. Thankfully, all my family members are safe and they are glad that I am in a better situation,” she says.

Her biggest challenge has been getting money from her family. “My parents transfer money to me through Western Union and since the lockdown, I have been unable to find a single operational branch in the city. I have been borrowing money from a friend as I am unable to withdraw from my account,” she adds.

Keeping the virus at bay

The four hostels designated to the international students have over 230 pupils from 43 countries. “We have been taking necessary precautions and safety measures,” says Paul Douglas, Chief warden of International Students’ hostels. “Housekeeping staff is provided with masks and gloves so that none of them toucesh anything with bare hands. The hostels that have community kitchens have strict rules about social distancing. None of the students is allowed to go anywhere except to get essentials in the morning.”

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Printable version | May 17, 2021 2:56:00 PM |

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