Hundreds of international students stuck on a barren Purdue campus

Most of Purdue's 40,000+ students have gone home amid the coronavirus pandemic. However for hundreds of international students, travel restrictions are keeping them in West Lafayette.

Posted: Mar 25, 2020 6:47 AM

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. (WLFI) — More than 40,000 students have shifted their learning online this week at Purdue University. The sidewalks on campus are empty as many are now learning from back in their hometowns.

However for hundreds of international students, the coronavirus pandemic is keeping them away from home. They're stuck in rented housing still at Purdue.

"Around campus I feel mostly it's international students rather than domestic," said junior Karim El Khoury. " [Domestic students] will come back to move out, but then they go back home."

El Khoury is an international student himself studying industrial engineering from Lebanon. He can't go home, and says his West Lafayette apartment complex is full of international students stuck like him.

"If I had to put all of this into one word, it's uncertainty," said Khoury. "We wake up, we don't know when we will fly back home. When will the airports open? Will the flights allow us to go from one location to the other? It's been hard. It's been very lonely."

Of the nearly 14,000 students staying in University Residence Halls, Purdue reports only about 1,200 needed to stay during this time. Countless other students are staying in various housing across West Lafayette.

"Anyway we cut it, this whole process will be hard," said Purdue President Mitch Daniels in a recorded interview to students. "I'll tell you something else that is hard, and that is looking out these windows and not seeing all of you there."

El Khoury says he is worried what this pandemic will do to his future.

"There's just so much uncertainty for my summer plans and for my after-graduation plans," said El Khoury. "If I'm staying here, will I take courses over the summer or not? Can I graduate early or not?"

The university made it a bit easier on students Tuesday. Purdue will allow Spring 2020 letter grades to be switched to "Pass/No Pass." That means any grade higher than a C- can be switched and not counted toward a student's GPA. However, passing grades will count toward a degree.

El Khoury says the move will help students out academically, but he's worried about their mental health. He says you see an international student around, say 'hello' or smile at them. He appreciates the community welcoming them in these uncertain times.

"We are treated like everybody else, which is so nice."

Purdue is closing nearly all of its academic, research and administrative buildings Wednesday. The exceptions include the Stewart Center (Welcome Center entrance only), Hicks Undergraduate Library, Purdue University Student Health Center and the Purdue Memorial Union.

According to the university , Hicks Undergraduate Library will be monitored and only open to students without WiFi or computer access. Staff will monitor social distancing and will clean throughout the day. It will be open 7:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday-Friday.

The Purdue Memorial Union will have limited lounge seating available from 7:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. Food service in the union is closed.

There are limited food options at dining courts. Credit cards and meal swipes can be used at Wiley Dining Court, Third Street Market and the food truck at Hawkins Hall for takeout order only.

International students can click here for student services.

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