Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, IU is asking that as few students be on campus as possible during the upcoming winter intersession, where classes will take place completely online and students will be encouraged to leave campus until Feb. 7.
While for some students this might only mean traveling a few hours or states away, for international students it means making the decision to either stay in Bloomington ,where a heightened flu season is expected, or to travel thousands of miles back to their home countries.
Sophomore Fei Huang will be returning home to Taiwan on Nov. 22 for the next few months, a decision she said was made based mostly off of where she is more likely to be able to spend time with friends.
“I know that you guys go home during break and so there will be basically nobody on campus,” Huang said. “I miss my friends back home and there’s no travel restrictions between Taiwan and the U.S., so it’s not too inconvenient for me to travel.”
IU requires students traveling outside the country to have a travel signature on their visa before leaving the country, but this is something Huang said international students are used to. Her flight is long, however, while a direct flight from the Indianapolis airport to Taipei would take about 13 hours, Huang said her flight totals about 24, since it takes her through multiple layovers — Indianapolis to Chicago, Chicago to Tokyo and finally, Tokyo to Taipei.
Although Huang’s traveling is relatively straightforward, this isn’t the case for all students. Sophomore Sunny Le, a business student from Vietnam, said the complications of travel in her situation were what motivated her to stay in Bloomington through the winter.
“I don’t want to risk it since COVID might get worse or something might happen unexpectedly and make it complicated to travel back and forth,” Le said. “I would have to be quarantined for two weeks and since the break is only two months it would be too much trouble to travel.”
Le, who lives in an off-campus apartment, said she suspects she’ll be bored with the lack of activity and people on campus. However, she has family friends in Florida who she is planning to visit over the holiday season as well as some people in Bloomington.
“I know one or two friends that stay here so I’ll probably just hang with them,” Le said. “And also I still have class until before Christmas and I also have one class during winter intersession, so at least I’ll have something to do."
For students who choose to stay on campus, housing will be available with a one-time charge of either $900 for enhanced dorms, $600 for standard air conditioned dorms and $300 for standard dorms. IU Dining will provide limited Grubhub service. Mail services will not be provided.
While Le’s life will be mostly the same, Huang said life in Taiwan looks very different. All of her classes end before Thanksgiving break, so she won’t have to account for the time difference and wake up early. Taiwan’s rules regarding the COVID-19 pandemic have been strict since the beginning, so Huang said she’ll likely be leading the kind of life she did before the pandemic, as long as she’s healthy after the mandatory quarantine.
“Taiwan is basically totally normal,” said Huang. “They reacted really fast at the beginning of the pandemic when it was still in China, so daily life in Taiwan is basically everything you can recall before this pandemic happened.”
Unlike many locations in the U.S., most bars, restaurants, shopping malls and movie theaters are operating as normal in Taiwan, although most places do require a mask. Huang said she feels like she’ll need at least a couple of days to get used to what it was like back home, but she doesn’t feel as if Taiwan is superior in handling the coronavirus.
“This is definitely something everybody is in together,” Huang said. “It’s not just like ‘Oh, this country has more cases,’ ‘this country has less cases.’ I don’t see it that way. I feel like it’s just something that’s global.”
Le said Vietnam is also back to normal, but she doesn’t want to possibly expose her parents to COVID-19 and feels safe staying in Bloomington over the break. However, there are aspects of Vietnam she misses. She was last home in summer 2019.
“I’ll miss my family, obviously, and the food,” Le said. “I really miss pho. There are no good Vietnamese restaurants here in Bloomington and the dish is too difficult to cook on my own.”
Huang said she’ll miss her friends as well. However, the break offers both students unique opportunities to do activities they normally don’t have time for. Le said she’s looking forward to reading more, as she has several books on her to-be-read list and won’t have much free time to dive into them next semester. Huang looks forward to the Taipei winter and plenty of rest and relaxation.
“Going home just means take a very brief break for me, get some sleep, get some good food back home and then get ready to embrace a new year,” Huang said.