Coronavirus travel blocks impact many

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California Baptist University’s international student-athletes are impacted by COVID-19 differently than American student-athletes because of worries about travel restrictions, classes and practices.

Athletic seasons at CBU this upcoming 2020-2021 year are constantly changing because of the unpredictability of COVID-19. Some international students had to stay on campus for several months before returning home.

“For now, we do not have much info about when the season is going to be—it can be next spring or it can be next fall,” said Romane Salvador, senior marking major and women’s soccer player. I got stuck on campus from March all the way until June. I was able to go home in June for seven weeks, but the time spent on campus I felt was really frustrating and depressing.”

In July, CBU hired Courtney Watson as the new Director of International Student Services. Watson helps international students by communicating with them to check in or provide updates regarding COVID-19 and campus resources. She understands that some student-athletes decided to stay home for safety reasons, but that most international student-athletes returned to campus.

“Many of our students from China were severely impacted by travel restrictions into the United States, with a good portion of our Chinese students electing to study online from home for the semester,” Watson said. 

Watson believes that most international students returned to CBU.

“However, I would say that the vast majority of students who made that decision did so not due to travel restrictions, but because they felt safer remaining at home or wanted to be close to family. As far as I know, the majority of our international athletes returned for the semester, but we are still working on auditing that list,” Watson said.

Buse Topcu, swimmer and junior nutrition and food science major, is staying home in Ankara, Turkey, this semester. Before COVID-19, Topcu suffered from an injury that kept her from competing at the conference and the national championship. As she was recovering, the pandemic began and kept her out of water for five months. Currently, she is practicing twice a day.

“I am not worrying about the travel ban restrictions right now, but I was worried before,” Topcu said. “I am just thinking about getting back into shape and getting back to where I was for swimming. I know that things will get better and worrying is not going to help me at all.”

The International Center at CBU is available to help international students and wants the international students to feel like they could rely on them with any problem that may arise.

“Reach out to our office if there are any questions or concerns of any nature,” Watson said. “Our staff is more than happy to help, and it would be our privilege to bring some clarity in an uncertain season. We care deeply for our international students and want to see everyone thrive this school year, despite how different it may look than originally planned. Whether you are here or at home: Let us know how you are doing, and how we can support you.”

With the many changes on campus, international student-athletes at CBU are pushing through time differences, travel restrictions, school and training while waiting for more information regarding their athletic seasons.

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