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Adapting to Life Far Away From Home

By Melanee Terry

Photo of Zening Ye

Zening Ye, from Nanning City, China, is one of the few international students who has not been able to go home during the pandemic. In fact, he hasn’t been able to get home to China since January during winter break. As a senior in the Mathematics and Business Administration programs at UMPI, Zening has been attending UMPI since his freshman year. Along with a couple of other Chinese students, Zening is living off-campus in the Skyway apartments adapting to new changes as a college student. Living away from home, Zening is continuing to pursue his education under these difficult circumstances.

While spending this summer away from home, Zening discovered some hobbies to keep himself busy. These hobbies were useful during his large amount of spare time. Zening did as much as he could to stay positive during this time, but he has found it difficult to travel the area and be independent off-campus because he does not have a car.

“I felt a little bit disappointed because I planned to have a trip during my summer,” Zening said. “I tried to find some things to do that can divert my attention during summer vacation such as studying, exercising and reading. I continue to miss my hometown and the food there.”

With many classes on campus moving to fully online, Zening had had to adapt to those changes. Although he does not mind having class through Zoom, he still enjoys in-person classes for communicating with his professors. He feels that he can handle online learning, but prefers to know his professors on campus due to the language barrier. Zening was also scheduled to take the GRE test, an admissions requirement for many graduate schools, in person. He will now take this online in the coming months.

“During COVID, I prefer online classes. They can sometimes be strange when talking to professors, but it isn’t so bad,” Zening said. “In my perspective, the worst thing that affected me since COVID is that I cannot prepare for the GRE test normally. I can still take the test online. I planned to take the test on campus; unfortunately, they shut down the test center due to COVID.”

Zening has noticed many changes on campus due to COVID-19 since he comes to campus frequently. The most significant changes he has noticed are the new signs and displays seen on campus for public safety. The changes to the residence halls, cafeteria, classrooms, and more were all created to keep students safe during this global pandemic.

“There are some changes I noticed during the pandemic, for instance, the distance between each seat at the CIL, social distance labels are everywhere, one-way entrance/exits, etc.,” Zening said. “I strongly agree with these changes because it provides a safe environment for faculty and students. However, we still need to be careful with the pandemic.”

Zening is also very appreciative of the staff and faculty who worked hard to bring students back this fall. Before coming back to campus, faculty and staff members spent months preparing for students and their arrival. These individuals did a lot of the behind-the-scenes work to keep students safe as they continue their education during these tough times.

“I think they responded very positively and actively cooperated with the series of decisions made by the school,” Zening said. “They are very concerned about the safety of the classroom and students.”

Zening is looking forward to travelling back home and seeing his family. He plans to graduate in May 2021. During this pandemic, he has learned a lot about himself and the world. Despite these hardships, he is grateful to have spent his time in Presque Isle and with people who care about him and his education.

“I think this pandemic is going to raise awareness for public safety. This incident has taught me the importance of public health prevention,” Zening said.