International student adapts to new normal on campus


Photo courtesy of Asit Singh

Asit Singh, an international student from Mumbai, India, is currently stranded on UA’s campus without a plan for the upcoming months. After realizing that the travel bans preventing him from returning home wouldn’t be lifted soon, he was forced to adapt his lifestyle to fit the circumstances created by COVID-19.

When Asit Singh dreamt of his future at the populous University of Alabama, it probably didn’t include being one of the only people on campus. With the ongoing coronavirus pandemic keeping students across the country at home, international students like Singh face travel bans that give them no choice but to stay in the United States. This, paired with a strict move-out deadline from the University, has left Singh scrambling to make arrangements for the month of May. 

Singh, a freshman majoring in computer science, came to the United States from Mumbai, India, to pursue his bachelor’s degree. He originally planned to stay on campus only for the duration of the school year, but due to the pandemic, he might be spending more time in Tuscaloosa than expected.

“I booked a plane [ticket] for the second of May, but it got canceled because there’s a lockdown [in India] until May 3,” Singh said. “But still, even if they lift the lockdown, they are not going to let international flights come into India. So because of that, I can’t go home.”

When conditions initially began to worsen in the U.S. and in India, Singh had the chance to go home but opted to stay in Tuscaloosa, hoping the travel ban would soon be lifted. When it wasn’t, Singh found himself stuck living in the Paty dorms. Soon, though, he won’t have that option either.

“May 2 I have to leave [the UA dorms] no matter what, so I still have to figure out where I am going to go,” Singh said. “[UA] just told us about all this – like the lockdown and how no people are encouraged to return – the very last day before spring break. So that was kind of bad I guess. I didn’t have any preparation for that, and I had to prepare a lot in just one day.”

Singh made many friends during his freshman year at the University, a lot of them from local cities. With no car on campus, Singh had to rely on those local friends to get around, and may now have to turn to them for housing, too.

“I have a few friends here, so I’m gonna just text them, like, ‘Can I just come over,’” Singh said. “I still have to pack, and I have so much stuff.”

If Singh wanted to stay on campus over the summer, he would have to enroll in courses, but that would mean paying extra fees and tuition. Additionally, the already limited facilities, such as Lakeside Dining, would be closed. 

While navigating COVID-19 restrictions and preparing to move out of his dorm, Singh also has his schoolwork to contend with. 

“My schoolwork has not been easy to handle,” Singh said. “I usually go to bed around 4 or 5 in the morning because I just procrastinate a lot. Before the break, I didn’t do most of my stuff, and then everything was due in two weeks. Over the break, I didn’t do anything. So now I’m just getting everything done.” 

Although Singh considers his situation unfortunate, he believes that being in his typical academic environment has actually helped him focus on his schoolwork. 

“I think if I was home I would probably procrastinate a lot more than I am right now,” Singh said. “If I stay in my dorm, I don’t usually work, but I can just go out, like, there’s a study room here, so I feel like working over there. If I was at home, I would probably not do any work at all.”

With the transition to online classes, Singh finds that less work is required, anyways.

“I think they’re the same quality, and they’re doing the best they can,” Singh said. “But because I know it’s open books and open notes, I don’t study at all, until like the day of. So that has been nice, but it’s not good for learning.”

Singh’s summer plans, which once included visiting home, traveling through Europe and interning in San Jose, have now become more uncertain each day. At the moment, Singh plans on staying with a friend starting May 1 but cannot predict what the late summer and fall will look like.