Durham, NH — For most college students, winter break calls for spending some quality time with family members or booking a trip to countries with lower legal age drinking limits. However, the reality of winter break amid the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic is very different for all students, especially for international students.  

While local students still had the option of going back home during winter break, most international students did not have the option to go back to their home countries. Many were stranded on campus due to most countries shutting down their borders because of the rising numbers of COVID-19 cases worldwide.  

Yadanar Moe, an information systems and business analytics and finance major, said that there was no point in going back to her home country this winter break since she would be in quarantine most of her time there anyway.  

“If I go back, I will have to spend two weeks in quarantine over there and two weeks in Durham, that is already a month!” said Moe. Additionally, Moe mentioned that when she was back in her home country of Myanmar last summer, she had to be in quarantine in a government facility for 21 days.  

However, Moe stated that she has been spending her time wisely by being productive. “Since I am a senior and I am graduating soon, I have been applying for jobs,” she said. “My mom has also shipped some canned food and spices and so, I have been trying out new recipes from my home country.” 

When it comes to motivation, Moe stated that she doesn’t really feel the amount of time that goes by. “I just try to stay positive every day,” she said. But Moe claimed that one of her few achievements this winter break has been her ability to master her favorite home-cooked recipes and landing job interviews.  

Though, she did mention that the hardest thing about spending winter break in Durham is that there is nothing to do around the college town. “Most students went back, and so Durham is like a ghost town,” she said. “It is also impossible to get out since it’s so hard to get an Uber around here. It’s not like Boston where almost everything is within walking distance.” 

But for junior Vlad Tkachev, going back to Russia over winter break has never been a part of his college routine. He said that even if he wanted to, it is safer to stay in one place considering the massive growth of the COVID-19 virus and the constant change of rules by most countries regarding the closure of their borders.  

Tkachev’s main advice to other students in his shoes is to always stay busy to better yourself. “I’d say having a routine to follow during times like these is very important,” he said. Aside from working out at the Hamel Recreation Center, Tkachev has been working in the lab with Assistant Professor Arturo Andrade. “Working out and doing research in the lab certainly distracted me from these hard times,” he added.  

Tkachev is proud of himself in taking the initiative to learn new skills during his time of leisure. “I’m proud that this winter break I learned a lot of lab procedures that I might use at my job after I graduate,” he said.  

However, much like Moe, Tkachev said that the lack of entertainment centers in Durham such as a shopping mall or a movie theater has restricted his options of things to do. Both Moe and Tkachev are happy that classes will resume soon, and they can see their friends who will be back on campus starting this week.  

Photo courtesy of Shawn Latulippe