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Living in COVID-19 times: Indian students share their experiences

Ohio State students, faculty and staff have made significant adjustments due to COVID-19 since the university declared a state of emergency on March 22. The remainder of the spring semester and summer term were transitioned to online learning, CarmenZoom became a necessity to complete classwork and virtual communication is the new normal.   

The India Gateway, while working with the Office of International Affairs, connected with international students from India to provide support and point them to appropriate resources.

Vrinda Sawhney, a marketing and psychology double-major and president of the India Students Association, returned to India immediately after spring break. She completed the second half of spring semester online and was enrolled in nine credit hours during the summer term.

“I have taken online classes before, so I was fairly comfortable with the mode of instruction,” Sawhney said. “I was worried that professor’s responses to emails and questions would be delayed. Surprisingly, all my professors have been very quick to response. A huge challenge is working on group projects. It is very easy for people to ignore your email or messages. There have been delays in finishing up work. Another challenge is lack of study space at my home. I moved back to India during the COVID-19 lockdown, and it’s been tough to find peace and quiet to study according to your own time. I was the president of Indian Students Association. As an organization, we have transitioned to next year and focusing on incoming international students in the fall.”

Sri Harini Balaji, an electrical engineering master’s student, was enrolled in classes during the spring semester and has continued with her research in technology for mental health during spring and summer.

“Initially it was difficult to adjust to the teaching and assignment schedule,” Balaji said. “ But later the uploading of the lectures helped manage the situation. As the Ohio State library made all the books available online, there was no problem in the availability of books.”

Sri Harini was appreciative that Ohio State made all the classes virtual and ensured that students could remain off campus.

“Ohio State constantly sent us updates on the pandemic and arranged online mental health general health services while keeping us informed about the university's actions,” she reflected.

Ayesha Seth, a PhD chemistry student, was enrolled in two courses in the spring semester and said it was difficult being away from her colleagues and continuing her research project.

“I could access all research papers and books from my apartment through the Ohio State digital library,” Seth said. “What worked well, was that I could listen to the recorded lectures again at my pace to understand the concept better as my professor recorded the lectures and uploaded them. The thing that didn't go very well was networking. I couldn't sit with my colleagues and discuss assignments and reports. I was spending more time reading for my research project earlier this year but wasn't able to accomplish the experiments I planned to do.”

Seth said Ohio State was able to handle the situation successfully by communicating regularly with the university community.

“On the whole, I appreciate the efforts made by Ohio State community in dealing with this pandemic diligently without compromising the safety of students, faculty and staff,” she said.

Ohio State has emergency grants available to aid students who are struggling with living expenses or facing other unexpected financial challenges related to the disruption of campus operations due to the pandemic. Ohio State recognizes the broad impacts of COVID-19 and is making these funds available to undergraduate, graduate and professional student on all Ohio State campuses. To learn more or apply for the Together As Buckeyes emergency grants program, visit https://go.osu.edu/BurP.

Resources for emotional support are available through Student Life’s Counseling and Consultation Service.