Alex Chambers ’22
Going to school in a different country is a big decision in itself, but for international students, the coronavirus pandemic has amplified the stress of studying in the United States.
Suzanne Carpe ’22 from El Salvador, Central America, always knew that she wanted to study abroad in order to do research and science— something that she was not able to do back home. On her decision to study at Trinity, she said, “I also wanted to study French and I knew a liberal arts college would allow me to pursue both [science and French] at the same time.”
Suzanne first experienced the stress of the coronavirus pandemic last spring when Trinity initially informed students that they would be remote for two weeks following spring break. At this point, Suzanne recalls that “El Salvador started imposing a strict 30-day quarantine period in a designated quarantine facility for everyone who was entering the country.” After looking into it, she found that the facilities “didn’t have electricity or internet, and some of them didn’t even have the basic necessities like toilet paper and water.” Returning home would have meant that she most likely would not have been able to finish the semester successfully.
After reviewing her options with her parents, Suzanne came to the conclusion that staying at Trinity would be the best way to for her to complete the semester. To this point she said, “Trinity was kind enough to let me stay along with other fellow international students that faced the same uncertainties.”
Suzanne commended Trinity’s support through the struggles of this time: “Although we were encouraged to return home or to stay with relatives in the U.S., [Trinity] never once turned their back on us. They continued providing us with food from Mather and later in the summer when Mather closed, they were giving us biweekly stipends so that we had money to buy food.”
Despite the support from the Trinity community, being away from home for so long has been challenging. Suzanne remarked that the most difficult part “is feeling powerless and not being able to help my family.” Her father is a dentist, so his practice has been closed for much of the time since the outbreak of coronavirus. In addition, her mother works for the government, and because of political issues, she recently has not been getting paid for her work. Suzanne’s grandmother had also passed away a few months ago, which added to the difficulty and stress of being so far away from home. Suzanne added, “I know my parents are struggling but they barely tell me about it… I love them and I would like to help, so in a way I am glad that I am here, so I don’t feel like a burden to them. But at the same time, it feels like I can’t even be there for them emotionally, which is really tough especially since we have always been really close.”
The struggles of being an international student in the age of COVID-19 has given Suzanne perspective: “I would say that I am even more grateful now for all the opportunities that I have and everything I am able to accomplish.”