Photo of Darius Passley-Bennett, Ricardo Gehrke (center) and Jose Silveira in the Den at Lourdes University

During the height of the pandemic, several Lourdes students were unable to return or travel to their hometowns. Many of them were international students. MBA student and Brazilian Ricardo Gehrke (pictured center) shares how international students individually, collectively and with Lourdes faculty and staff, strengthened their community bond while living on campus.

“In the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, the uncertainty of the virus and the recommendations from officials forced many individuals to remain at home. But for students who come from different countries and are miles away from their real home, they questioned how to best face such a critical scenario with serenity.

In March 2020, the World Health Organization declared the new coronavirus outbreak a pandemic. There was not much information and research about ways to prevent the spread of COVID-19 and for that reason, international students had to take a step back regarding their summer vacation plans. For most, staying on campus would be a good option, but the characteristic college dorms did not seem to be an appropriate environment. At Lourdes University, however, due to the apartment style housing, students were safely allowed to stay during the break.

Jose Silveira(pictured right), a business administration major from Brazil, points out the positives of spending the three months of summer at the university, his home for the previous three years. “The Lourdes housing staff allowed us to choose our roommates for the summer, which contributed to my adaptation during the period.”

The senior also highlights another important point that demonstrated support from Lourdes University toward its international students. “I suddenly had to change my plans of not going home anymore, but that resulted in extra costs. Lourdes was able to work around it and the school did not charge the international students in regard to the housing fee.”

Jose also mentions that the school’s decision made him feel supported, even though being so distant from his loved ones. He also remembers enjoying the warm days fishing, playing the sport that makes him a student-athlete – soccer – and strengthening the sense of community in the apartment complex with his friends who also stayed on campus.

Darius Passley-Bennett (pictured left) had to give up on joining friends and family at home, this time in England, to safely stay in the Lourdes University apartments. The soccer player was going through a recovering process from his torn ACL, and took advantage of the period to work on rehabilitation. Because his injury limited his movements, it also impacted other key tasks of Darius’ routine.

“As an international student, the lack of food through a meal plan at the cafeteria was noticeable especially since I can’t work off-campus to earn the necessary funds.” The cafeteria indeed had different hours from the regular semester due to the diminished amount of students around. The school, however, provided an alternative option for the days that the cafeteria was not operating. “I really would have struggled if not for the food at Gubi’s Grind (an area students access with their University ID). “For the most part, I used the rice to cook myself many meals.”

Lourdes kept Gubi’s Grind continuously stocked with rice, cereal, and fruits throughout the summer season. Jose also appreciated Gubi’s Grind. “It was definitely an element that made us feel more comfortable.”

A few meetups and events were scheduled to bring students and staff members together. Everyone always wore face masks and respected social distance guidelines. President Gawelek and Dean of Students Greg Kneser joined the students in the apartment complex during the summer to discuss University decisions and answer questions about the fall 2020 semester. Such small events contributed to the family environment created in the Lourdes University housing commons.

For Lourdes University international students, summer 2020 was a season of safety first. The large amount of uncertainty in choosing to go home or remain had a single and simple answer – just stay where you are. For Jose, Darius, and several international students at Lourdes and in the world, it meant to stay away from family and friends, but staying safe. Lourdes and University staff members attempted to embrace students as one community, making them know that if a home is needed here, a home they will find.”

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