This post was contributed by international student Vira Wiguna, an accounting sophomore at UT.
2020 has been an unusual experience, to say the least. As an international student, who is writing this article from her underground bunker deep in the heart of campus, the COVID-19 pandemic has changed my life in unimaginable ways.
I’m originally from Jakarta, Indonesia; moving to Austin, Texas in 2019 was a huge decision for me. Here, I’m far away from everyone and everything I used to know. A lot of my friends commended me for my bravery, but some condemned me for my reckless stupidity. All I knew was that I was taking a blind step into uncharted territory.
Ultimately, I’m glad I took that step because I found a community of like-minded people at UT and I feel so welcomed and accepted. My first year here as an accounting major in McCombs featured a lot of exploring. PERMIAS Austin, an organization for Indonesian students, welcomed me with open arms when I was confused, scared and more than a little homesick. I met a lot of new people, each with interesting backgrounds. I applied to many volunteer positions and spent a lot of time absorbing all the new things I got to uncover, like a treasure hunter on an island full of gold.
Then in the blink of an eye, everything changed. The first news I heard about the pandemic came from home. My mother called me and said, ‘Jakarta is going on lockdown, and case numbers are rising fast, faster than any of us expected.’ COVID-19 was like a tornado wreaking havoc on the world, and no one was prepared.
In the first month of the pandemic, my life was unstructured, which made it hard to stay motivated. Summer classes started soon after though, and my courses forced me to get creative while searching for motivation to study. The study room in my apartment became a ‘classroom,’ where I currently watch my classes and do homework, quizzes and tests.
Now, it’s like the world has moved to a virtual format. As an introvert, it is a bit of a blessing to have a reason to stay inside. I get to reconnect with friends back
home and elsewhere who live in a different time zone. I’m taking all online classes, so there aren’t a lot of reasons for me to go out, but I miss being in the hustle and bustle of campus life.
One thing that has helped me cope is to volunteer virtually. Helping people do what they cannot, especially with the pandemic, is an amazing experience. Receiving heartwarming notes from clients is the highlight of my whole pandemic experience.
For those of you confused about where to start, check out UT in the Community. That’s where I found Foundation Communities, the nonprofit I’m volunteering at currently! Joining student organizations is also a great way to get connected on campus. If you want to give back to the community, some organizations have their own volunteer schedules. These organizations usually work together with nonprofits offering different types of positions, so you can offer your services in many subjects!
Lastly, stay positive! During these difficult times, it seems like everyday something else is going wrong in some other part of our lives. But we humans are strong, and we can get through this together. If you feel overwhelmed, reach out to the UT Counseling and Mental Health Center. Or, take a break! Getting enough breaks is as essential to your health as getting enough sleep and eating healthy. It’s up to us as a community to support each other. Horns Up!
Are you an international student interested in sharing your story on the blog? Apply here.