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UNH houses students in need during pandemic

Photo Courtesy of UNH Housing & Residential Life

Colleges and universities nationwide have been suspending all in-person classes and closing down dorms for the remainder of spring semester due to the coronavirus pandemic. For students at the University of New Hampshire (UNH), it was made mandatory for students that were living on-campus to go home, according to a March 19 email from UNH Housing.  

For some students, going home is not an option. However, at UNH, international students can request to remain on campus. 

Victoria Perkins, assistant director of apartments and summer conference at the housing department of UNH, said that all students with unique extenuating circumstances that prevented them from leaving UNH were reassigned to a private room in Babcock Hall.  

“Most of the students [living in Babcock Hall] are international students who were unable to safely return to their home countries,” she added. Currently, the housing department is also providing space for a small number of other students who did not have a safe place to go if they left campus.  

Sophia Moe, a student from Myanmar, was mostly worried about her living situation post-spring break.  

“I did not know if I would get approved to stay on-campus,” the junior said.  

Moe finally decided to go back to her home country to be with family during this pandemic.  

“The United States currently has the highest number of cases of coronavirus while my country only has eight positive cases and zero deaths,” Moe said.  

However, she stated that UNH’s Department of Housing has been very flexible by letting her stay in her dorm room until her departure date. In terms of her education, Moe is confident that the faculty and staff would understand her situation.  

“I have emailed my professors about the time difference in my country and my professors have been lenient with my assignments due dates,” Moe said.  

Shawn Tran, a Vietnamese student, decided to stay in Durham as he believed that traveling back would put his family members at a high risk. He added, “My parents do not particularly have the best history for a good immune system.” The bioengineering student is currently living in The Lodges at West Edge. “I was planning to move [to The Lodges] in fall, but since I was only allowed to stay in Congreve until the end of March, I figured why not move in right now since there is availability,” said Tran. His biggest challenge is persistency. “My internship was canceled and that decreased my motivation to study, especially when classes are online.” 

Meanwhile, Vladimir Tkachev, a neuroscience major from Russia, opted to live in Babcock Hall. The sophomore said the transition was smooth.  

“My old dorm [Devine Hall] is across Babcock Hall so it was not that far of a walk,” Tkachev said.  

Similar to Tran, Tkachev believes that it is safer for him to stay in Durham rather than risking himself on a 27-hour trip back home.  

“The biggest challenge for me is finding a place to work out,” Tkachev said. However, on the bright side, he explained that online classes have made him more productive because he has more free time.  

“My goal is just to keep calm and maintain my grades,” Tkachev added.  

The transition from her old dorm to Babcock Hall was not as smooth for resident assistant Soleha Patel, a student from India.  

“The move from Fairchild Hall to Babcock Hall itself is exhausting and time consuming; moreover, the rooms [in Babcock Hall] are small, the location is far from the only dining hall that is open and there is no air conditioning, it is going to be summer soon,” Patel said.  

The biomedical science student was not satisfied with the housing department as no students got to voice their opinion.  

“Most international students live in either Fairchild Hall or in the Upper Quad, why are we suddenly being placed in Babcock Hall?,” she questioned.  

Unlike the others, Patel is staying in Durham because her country is on a lockdown and refusing any international flights.  

“I will try to go back after the spring semester if the lockdown [in India] is over, however, it all depends on how the coronavirus is being controlled,” she said.  

“The housing department is trying their best to assist the residents with their diverse concerns and needs by having live-in staff within the building,” Perkins said. In the interest of safety, the department has implemented a more rigorous cleaning/sanitization routine within the building common areas, installed additional wall-mounted hand sanitizers and provided cleaning supplies that residents may use at their discretion. Moreover, many offices on campus are kept updated about the residential population so that services can be modified to suit their needs. 

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