CSUMB’s exchange program disrupted by COVID-19

Due to the COVID-19 statewide shelter-in-place order, many California State University, Monterey Bay (CSUMB) foreign and out-of-state exchange students had to cut their study abroad programs short this semester.

On March 17, CSUMB President Ochoa sent out an email stating that “students are strongly encouraged to return home as soon as possible,” due to Monterey County’s transition into a shelter-in-place. For some exchange students, that meant their sudden trip home would consist of hours of plane travel and cutting their stay in California in half.

National exchange student, Rey Munoz, experienced this as he decided to head back to his hometown in Des Moines, Iowa. “[CSUMB] did offer national and international exchange students the opportunity to stay on campus, but we would have to relocate to apartment style housing such as North Quad or Promontory,” Munoz said.

Aside from missing Monterey for the ocean, “Monterey has brought a lot of new friends and experiences so it sure was sad to leave so quickly,” Munoz said. “The whole experience was pretty chaotic, but also very organized from the housing office’s side of things. Moving out and leaving California so quickly seemed as if it wasn’t real.”

Munoz is now safe and self-quarantining in Des Moines.

Elke Windschitl, another national exchange student from Iowa, had a similar expeirence at CSUMB during the pandemic. “Housing said it will remain open for anyone who felt it was unsafe to go home and that we must comply with the shelter in place order,” Windschtil said. “To me, this implied that we could stay, but it was preferred that we leave.”

“The transition to online classes in a non-university setting has been difficult for me,” Windschtil said.

In addition to missing the traditional class setting, Windschitl also misses the opportunities in Monterey that she doesn’t necessarily have back home in Iowa. As for the moving process, “[It was] really stressful to leave so quickly because I got strep throat right when students were asked to leave and couldn’t say goodbye to many people since I wanted to play it safe,” Windschitl said.

Windschitl hopes she will receive a “proper refund from housing” after having to leave her dorm room midway through the semester.

During this pandemic, international student Victoria van der Werff said she “did not read the email” that housing sent to CSUMB students about COVID-19 because she “already got mail from [her] home university asking [her] to come home as soon as possible.”

Being from the Netherlands, “The Dutch Prime Minister told in a press conference that he would like all Dutch people to come home as soon as possible,” van der Werff said.

“I felt like the coronavirus hadn’t really hit America yet, so I felt like it was going to be worse if I stayed. I get really sad when I think about it, but I know it’s better that I left,” van der Werff said.

Like most exchange students, van der Werff wishes she could’ve had a regular abroad semester, not just due to the excitement of being in a new place, but also to make classwork and class meetings more manageable. “Keeping up with classes is very tough,” van der Werff said. “I’m currently eight hours forward on Californian time, which means that most of my classes are at 4 or 6 a.m. in local time for me.”

She described her move-out process as an “emotional rollercoaster,” where her “brain was on autopilot.” While “there was barely time to feel sad about the situation,” van der Werff misses CSUMB and “the whole American experience.”

Although many exchange students moved back home when Monterey went into a shelter-in-place, a few stayed in CSUMB’s student housing. Exchange student Clara Ruoff came to CSUMB from her hometown in Germany and decided to stay at CSUMB during the shelter-in-place. Ruoff’s roommates moved out of their dorm, as most people did on her floor in Tortuga Hall and now her building is “scary quiet.”

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