Despite concerns for their families, Keene State international students expressed gratitude to the college for allowing them to remain on campus during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“I would like to thank Keene State for being so considerate with their international students and letting us stay here. Besides the food and housing, we’ve been receiving a lot of emotional support by the Global Education Office and they are making this experience better for us,” said Norma Elizabeth Huembes Salazar, a senior from Nicaragua.
Right before the college’s spring break, housing and dining was offered to students who did not want to return home due to COVID-19 dangers. Whether students would have to visit high-risk airports or stay in high-risk areas for long periods of time, they could remain in their dorm for no additional cost and no limitations to dining options.
Director of Global Education Office Skye Stephenson expressed how well international students have done despite the challenging situation.
“They’re a wonderful group of students and we’ve been really proud of how well they’ve adjusted and adapted,” said Stephenson.
Currently, Salazar said she plans to stay at the college until May 9. She is sponsored by the U.S. Department of State and they will decide if this date will change.
She explained that her parents want her to remain in Keene because Nicaragua is the only country in the entire continent that is not taking any World Health Organization recommended procedures. The president and vice president of Nicaragua announced that any political leaders encouraging residents to stay home are just promoting hysteria and trying to override their leadership.
“Doctors from different hospitals have confirmed a high number of COVID-19 in those hospitals and they are getting fired for displaying confidential information. They are even making state workers go to marches and do festivals when it is clearly recommended to stay home and apply social distance,” said Salazar.
Similarly, Allison Doménica Yánez Castillo, a junior from Ecuador, said that Keene is the safest place for her right now. She elaborated by citing the 1,082 cases in Ecuador and the 27 deaths. Her family is in quarantine and the country’s borders are closed, so she can not return home to them any time soon.
“[My family is] really happy and relieved that KSC is taking care of me. Even if the borders of my country were opened, I wouldn’t go back,” said Castillo.
Castillo also mentioned the support of not only the Global Education Office but the faculty and staff she interacts with.
“The faculty members have been really nice. You can really notice they care about their students. All of my professors have asked me how I am doing and where I am staying,” said Castillo.
With plans constantly changing, both students said they are grateful the college has integrated some consistency as well as safety into their lives. Although it is preferable to be with family during frightening times, Salazar said she knows she made the right choice.
“At some points of the day, I feel like I want to go back and be with my family during this issue. At the same time, I know it is better for me to stay here,” said Salazar.
At the time of publishing, Salazar was called back to her home in Nicaragua by the United States Department of State, earlier than her anticipated departure date of May 9.
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