At Home Away From Home ep. 1

Greetings!

My name is Irnea Muhović, although I usually go by Nea (pronounced Neigh-Aw). I’m a first-year graduate student at the University of Northern Iowa in Communication Studies. I come from Kosovo. Even though this is my first year at UNI, I have been in the United States for five years now, as I did my undergraduate studies in Iowa, as well. Currently, I work in the Admissions Office helping with International Admissions and Transfer Admissions.

So, I’m not sure exactly where to start… but, I want to talk about what it is like to be an international student studying in a foreign country during a pandemic. I follow the news regularly, and I want to say I’m always pretty informed about what’s going on in the world (or at least the major happenings). That being said, from the start I was closely following the COVID-19 developments in the other countries.

Other countries had already switched to online classes, and we were all hearing rumors that UNI would do the same, soon. We were in our last week of classes before we went on Spring Break when we received the news that we would be switching to online classes for two weeks after we come back from Spring Break. This was also around the same time my country went into quarantine, as well.

What is interesting is that my Spring Break week didn’t look very different than usual even though we went into quarantine, except that I went out only for necessities. I had just adopted a dog a month ago, so I actually wasn’t planning on traveling anyway. I was waiting for Spring Break to start, so I could relax, catch up on sleep, catch up on schoolwork, and do my big spring clean (I’m a clean freak and I love a clean apartment). I know that Kosovo people were cleaning and organizing because they were quarantined and because they were working from home. I was doing the same, except I was planning on doing all of those even without the quarantine.

During Spring Break, we got the news that we will be switching to online classes for the rest of the semester, as well as working remotely. Was hearing this scary? Yes, and no. Yes, I immediately thought about what this means for my status as a student in the United States. But, UNI was reassuring us every day that nothing will change. We are switching to online classes, but we are continuing our studies. I got so many emails, official emails, more personal emails, emails from my professors, from the International Students and Scholars Office, basically from everyone telling us that UNI is not abandoning its international students, and that everything will be alright.

Everyone worked closely with us in figuring out what’s the best approach moving forward. My professors worked on finding the best alternatives to make sure our online classes still give us the knowledge we need. My bosses were so accommodating to working remotely, and so flexible about everything.

Due to switching to online classes and working remotely, we had to cancel International Preview Day (IPD).  I was the IPD coordinator and had been planning the event since the beginning of the semester. I had been so excited for this. But, this meant we had to find an online alternative. So, we brainstormed and came with a few virtual options for our students.

Adapting to having online classes and working from home took some time, but I (and all of us) made it work. We have now been in quarantine for about a month. My day-to-day life looks very different from the one before the self-quarantine.

If you want to read more about how my life has changed, and how I made it work, stay tuned, and make sure to come back next week for part #2 of my blog post.

Stay safe everyone!!

 

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