Jamaican students struggle in COVID-hit countries

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A report from The Stabroek News.

Jamaican students who are studying overseas are now facing the wrath of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19).

These students are miles away from their homes, their families and friends, and are in countries where the virus has been killing thousands.

Jonathan Richards, 22, who has been studying on a scholarship in France for more than two years, says he has been longing for Jamaica, but that feeling is at an all-time high.

Since Friday, March 13, schools have been shut down in France, and students have been advised to self-quarantine in dorm rooms. Richards told THE STAR that the experience is chaotic.

EMOTIONALLY DESTABILISING
“It is quite traumatic and emotionally destabilising to be away from my family and friends right now. I speak to my family every day, but it is not same, because everybody is in fear of this virus,” he said. “They are worried because the risk is higher since I am in an international transit zone, where a lot of international students are. It’s a point of transit for students and tourists.”

Currently, there are more than 16,000 coronavirus cases in France and nearly 700 deaths. Richards has been isolating himself, with no friends or family in sight in a foreign territory, and it is taking a toll on his mental health.

“Having been self-quarantined for more than a week, I have been more inclined to withdraw psychologically from persons in my near surroundings, such as Jamaicans who are with me on the same programme,” he said.

Tyrique Graham, 22, shares a similar plight. He has been studying in Maine, USA, for two years. Currently, there are nearly 33, 000 confirmed COVID-19 cases and more than 400 deaths.

Graham describes himself as ‘unprepared’ to fight the virus.

“The Western Union outlets have closed down and I am unable to get funds from back home to stock up on food and other supplies. It is just a challenging time. Even though the school has been giving us supplies, they can’t give us everything we need,” he said. “I ran out of hand sanitiser and I’m low on food now. But for the most part, I’m not terrified, because we only have 70 confirmed cases in south Maine, and I attend school in northern Maine … and that is like seven hours away.”

Though not terrified, he wishes that he was in Jamaica with family right now.

“Rather than being locked in a dorm room every day, I would love to spend this time with my family. We are not allowed to have people in the dorms, there’s no activities,” he said.

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