For Santrupth G R Vedanthi, an Indian student from Oman currently studying in a Pennsylvania State University, the recent wave of uncertainty about staying in the US in accordance with new regulations for foreign students brought with it many an upheaval. With unconfirmed prospects of staying in the US while the pandemic is yet underway and concerned parents in Oman, Santrupth, who is currently in his third semester of computer engineering, juggled with many hurdles before finally returning to the comfort of his home in Muscat. Here’s what he has to say:
COVID-19 has been a very tough journey for people from all walks of life and has affected the day to day schedule. I also had to face a lot of peaks and valleys at the beginning of this year but I feel myself as lucky because I had a smooth transition to this new lifestyle of the COVID-19 Pandemic regulations.
My first transition started from March 16, after the spring break, when we were informed about the transition to a fully remote semester. The rise of the pandemic kickstarted and the real effect began by mid of March. I made a firm decision to stay back on campus and finish my semester as I thought it will be tough to adjust myself to the new timezone routine.
I had a pretty amazing remote session through my semester and it was not hard to adjust in terms of academics as we submit most of our work using the online platforms. It was hard for a few core subjects, like physics lab, but I would love to commend my professor for her dedication and passion towards the subjects and the commitment she had towards achieving the best possible method for us to succeed in that course.
The university did a marvelous job by taking necessary actions, abiding the government health regulators. After a month and a half of hard work, I successfully completed my spring semester and the next question that popped in my head was about my travel and how I am going to spend my summer break; whether I am going to stay back in the US or travel back to Oman.
Parents of international students have so much stress and confusion about travel restrictions and travel bans. All these horrendous thoughts were obstructing my mind about what I should do next and then I got a phone call from my mother’s close schoolmate that I should stay with them until my trip to Muscat is confirmed. Me and my parents were then considering various aspects of my stay in the US.
This phone call was a dose of booster for our family and immediately, with the help of my aunt Chethna I booked the flight for the next day. I cleared my apartment and I am usually ready with my clothes as I am not an avid shopper and love to keep my stuff and apartment spick and span. Those 20 days with my aunt were very memorable as I had the taste of south Indian cuisine after a very long time and got the opportunity to enjoy the aromas of home cooked food.
The long walks that I used to have with aunty and her daughters (Keerthana and Varna) were energising and some intellectual talks with my uncle Raj used to finish my entire day. After tireless efforts by my father and his amazing colleagues, who are our extended family, helped me to reach Muscat safely on June 3.
I was so happy to fly back home and be with my parents as I consider it as the best blessing one can have to spend some valuable time with them, especially under current circumstances. I will always be thankful to God and my parents who have supported and safeguarded me even in difficult and horrifying situations like the COVID-19 pandemic.
After my arrival, as per the government rule, I quarantined myself for 14 days and also had a tracker provided by the authorities to keep a count of the days left. I was happy as the days reduced to single digits so that I could inhale the freshness of the environment which is the best immune builder. After my 14 days, I started to work out and move around and started driving, which is one of my favourite passions, with all necessary precautions. The moment I started my exercise routine I felt fresh and energetic. I also enjoyed Netflix, Amazon Prime Video and other new channels to have some entertainment as well as to understand the current standing of various nations regarding COVID-19.
I also had the opportunity to work during the lockdown as I was one of the international student orientation leaders and was able to share my experience with the new incoming students for fall. Like other students, I too was very cautious about the emails that were sent by the university so I could update myself with the current information about the ongoing decisions in the US about college reopening and other facilities.
I was fortunate enough to learn drums from my uncle Arunkumar in this pandemic and get some extreme hand workouts for drumming and groove setting skills done. These experiences have moulded me to be a stronger and better as a person to accept the new changes to our routine. Work, Zoom sessions, music and importantly, being with family has made my lockdown stress free and relaxed and I am grateful that I had to undergo only a few changes to my daily life and was blessed to be back with my parents to stay under one secure roof in this pandemic.
Looking at the increase in the number of cases and transformation to more disturbed faces, I pray to God to keep everyone healthy and protected.