Indian students look for accommodation, prepare to fly home after colleges vacate campus due to COVID-19

Ritu Jha-

For the safety and well-being of the students, several universities in the US have taken measures to shut down on-campus operations and have moved classes online. International students fearing the outbreak of COVID-19 are going back to India after the President declared it a national emergency and WHO a pandemic.

Raj Shah, a sophomore at San Jose State University studying Electrical Engineering says he is watching the situation, his friend left and he might as well. 

“If serious things happen in the near future, I will leave too,”, Shah told indica and added his friend told him that the Indian government is only putting those people in quarantine who have cold, cough and fever.

Shah who has stocked food necessities, toiletries, water though sounded confident said, “I am not scared of COVID- 19 that much because as the college is closed, I am not going to come in contact with a lot of people but I am scared of the way everything is functioning.”

He also feels he might get sick at the airport as chances of you getting affected in a fully air-conditioned airport is higher and where COVID-19 is prone to happen, and same goes for airplane where there are a lot of people stacked together beside each other in the same cold ventilated closed place.

Another San Jose State University student, Mitwa Palkhiwala said she is not scared of COVID-19, “I feel if proper care is taken and public places are avoided as much as possible, then we can reduce the spread significantly.”

She told indica a few of her friends were sick but had tested negative. Just a minor health issue. until now they are safe and also, though pneumonia and COVID-19 have very similar symptoms. The mortality rate of pneumonia is much higher than COVID-19.

“It’s very necessary for all of us across the globe to stay strong and alert during this pandemic situation,” Palkhiwala told indica.

However, Jayaram Komati, community leader and secretary of TANA (Telugu Association of North America)of TANA told indica seven students have approached him for help and they would be staying in a motel. The students are from Santa Clara State University and San Jose State University.

While most youth say they are not scared of the virus, but of the panic created in the whole world, they are trying to fly back home to stay with their families instead of searching for alternative accommodation in the US, which is proving to be very for difficult.  Many students are facing several difficulties in different states finding a place to stay as the universities have vacated the hostels and housing facilities for the students as classes were moved online.

The consulate general of India, New York, has requested friends of the students to host them till such time the threat lasts. Many students are also going to their relatives’ places to crash instead of spending a fortune on hotels and motels. Indian American community organization Sewa International to is offering help to the students.

Achalesh Amar, Director, Disaster Relief, Sewa International Inc. told indica they are supporting the Indian student community studying in various universities of USA.

“We foresee the need for medical help or accommodation in some cases (of dorms closes at some university). Through the multiple chapters of Sewa International throughout the USA, we are tapping and empanelling local doctors for help/guidance. We have started talking to motel/hotel associations for possible accommodation needs. Sewa’s family service division is taking a lead in providing guidance through the helplines we have established,” Amar said.

The advisory released by the Indian Embassy in Washington during the press conference held Friday , the Indian officials said they have set up the helpline since there are over 200,000 international students in the US, advising them to avoid domestic and international travel as well as check with their respective universities on how to avail the university’s health services, student health insurance, international student services, and any other essential service(s) that may be impacted, and if they can petition to continue staying in on-campus housing. If you cannot petition for continued on-campus housing or your petition is not accepted, consult with your university or your network on how to find alternate accommodations.

Providing relief to international students, president of the Stanford University, Marc Tessier-Lavigne told indica through an email that the university will only be able to prove on-campus undergraduate housing and dining for a very limited number of students – those who have no other option than to be here.

The message read,

“Along with the federal declaration of a national emergency today, Santa Clara County issued an order enacting new restrictions to slow the spread of COVID-19 in our area. In addition to closing local public schools, the order prohibits gatherings of more than 100 people and includes new restrictions on smaller gatherings. These new restrictions, which apply to cafeterias as well as other spaces, will make it very difficult to sustain our undergraduate dining operations at scale for an extended period of time.

For spring break and spring quarter, we will only be able to provide on-campus undergraduate housing and dining for a very limited number of students – those who have no other option than to be here. We will be prioritizing international students who cannot go home; students who
have known severe health or safety risks; and students who are homeless. We are also planning to allow a small number of our residential staff who do not meet the previous criteria to remain on campus.

Using these criteria, we are currently evaluating the requests students submitted and expect to inform you by email by noon Saturday to confirm your on-campus housing.”

The University, however, requested the other students to vacate the campus latest by March 18 (Wednesday). It also wrote that financial support is available through the Financial Aid Office for both travel and living expenses for students receiving financial aid.

At California State University, the classes are moved online, Toni Molle, Director, Public Affairs, Office of the Chancellor told indica on students asked to leave the campus, said no.. but the safety and well-being of all members of the California State University community is always the university’s foremost priority. “Our leadership continues to monitor developments including all State and Federal guidance and public-health updates related to the Coronavirus-COVID-19,” she said.

When asked on classes shifted online, and how international students can attend, she said that the CSU Chancellor’s Office runs systemwide international programs in various countries but we do not have programs in India. CSU campuses also run their own Study Abroad programs and some may have programs based in India.




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