Pandemic strands international students in Lake Havasu City

A handful of international students are stranded in Lake Havasu City because of the coronavirus. They can’t go home until global travel restrictions are lifted and when that will happen is anyone’s guess.

When the COVID-19 threat forced Arizona State University’s Lake Havasu branch campus to switch to online instruction, most students left in late March to finish the spring semester at home.

MORE: ASU, UArizona to move to online instruction amidst coronavirus outbreak

But 15 ASU Havasu students didn’t have that option because their homes are in Europe, Asia or elsewhere around the globe.

They continue to live in the university’s residence hall and stay in touch with their families through the internet.

“If I don’t get to fly home this summer, I will be OK because this is life – it will not always go as planned. Moreover, better safe than sorry,” Aidanek Ruslanbekova of Kyrgyzstan told the Today’s News-Herald newspaper.

Ruslanbekova noted that being healthy in Lake Havasu City is far more appealing than the risks of taking the 7,000-mile (11,000-kilometre) flight home and being exposed to thousands of passengers or people in airports along the way.

“I have accepted the virus situation and quarantine, so I am not scared of what is going on. I am just waiting until it is done,” she said, adding that her family also is confined in her home country.

For most people, the coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough that clear up in two to three weeks. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia, and death. The vast majority of people recover.

The family of Nouran Elkhashap lives in Cairo, Egypt. She said that city has much tighter residential controls than Lake Havasu.

“No one is allowed to go outside their homes. My family has been at home for one month now,” Elkhashap said.

Tianjie Hu is from Linyi, a large city in the Shandong province of China. He said his family is faring well.

“I am not that anxious to go back because there is still more I need to do. For example, summer classes that I signed up for,” said Hu, adding that he would be subjected to extreme measures if he returned home.

“The policy of China right now is I (would) need to quarantine myself for 14 days in a hotel, and another 14 days in my home,” Hu said.

MORE: Coronavirus: What to do if you’re told to self-quarantine

For safety’s sake, the students no longer have roommates. They retreat to their own rooms to study or be alone with their thoughts.

When the sun goes down, loneliness can creep in. But most of the time, the students said their strong friendships with each other keeps them afloat.

“I am not feeling lonely,” Ruslanbekova said. “We have made a family in the dormitory here. We are all ready to support each other anytime.”

Hu said that although he has “plenty of friends around me and kind people are helping me, feeling lonely is inevitable when you are far apart from your family and your home culture.”

Elkhashap grows weary of the isolation, however.

“Sometimes I feel so lonely, especially during the night,” she said. “There is no problem in hanging out with friends in the morning, but when I overthink and remember my family during the night, I get lonely.”