College Amidst the Pandemic: An International Freshman’s Perspective
November 2, 2020
I had finally arrived in Doha and was excited to continue my some-what college experience at Georgetown University. Living in the dorms, being independent and away from my family, is one of the perks of the traditional college experience that draws me to campus instead of staying in my home country. So I was excited that I had finally started that journey.
Everything went quite smoothly: I underwent quarantine for two weeks and was buzzing with the excitement of finally being in this beautiful city. After a few days, however, reality dawned on me.
I have had little, if any, human contact for over a week. It was difficult to eat, sleep, and study in the same spot every day. It was also challenging to reach out to anyone in particular because I knew nobody here. There was no in-person orientation to help me make new friends and it had been difficult to form friendships in an online environment. I felt stranded and isolated in a country that I barely knew.
So to the many international freshmen who also feel isolated and disconnected, you are not alone. From one international freshman to another, here are some tips to help you overcome those feelings and combat homesickness, especially during these unprecedented times:
1.Do not call home too often.
Contrary to what you may think, calling home a lot won’t help you transition easily; instead, it might just give you more FOMO (fear of missing out). This is because inquiring about your family and friends’ daily lives would only make your homesickness worse. You may even question your intention to attend Georgetown in the first place! This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t call at all. Do check up on your friends and family, but limit how often you do so.
2. Step out of your comfort zone.
I know you might feel anxious about how to fit into this new culture. Everything and everyone seems so different. You feel as if most conversations you have with other people are always awkward. And the pandemic just makes it harder as it’s so difficult to truly connect with and learn about your new schoolmates. But the truth is, everyone feels the same way you do. Knowing that you are not the only one who goes through this might make things easier. Try to be daring and be the one to send the first text to someone you find cool (that’s actually how I met my closest friends, Umaima and Maryam!). From my experience so far, most Hoyas are nice. Remember, freshman year happens only once, so you might as well make all your dumb mistakes now. YOLO.
3. Give yourself a little break and take care of your mental health.
While I do encourage stepping out of your comfort zone and doing spontaneous things, do not neglect your mental health. Don’t let socializing drain you. Education City has a lovely place called Oxygen Park and walking around it in the evenings – when the weather has cooled down a bit – can be very relieving. If you are into writing, get yourself a journal and record all your experiences and emotions. It is important to keep track of your mental health so that you know your boundaries and know what may or may not trigger or upset you. The Wellness center has vast resources, including well trained professionals, that can address any health or wellness concern that you may have. Don’t hesitate to send an email to [email protected]
You have started an exciting phase of your life, and I am so excited to embark on this journey with all of you. Enjoy the rest of the semester, and hopefully, we will all get to meet in person soon. Hoya Saxa!