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International Students Navigate Life Under COVID-19

Anna Royo
University of Wyoming's Women's Tennis Team, 2019-2020

Anna Royo and Maria Oreshkina were playing a tennis match in Denver when they found out that their whole athletic season came crashing to an end.

"Everything was shocking 'cause like, overnight, it was—everything was cancelled," Anna Royo said.

Royo is a senior undergraduate student-athlete at the University of Wyoming, who plays for the women's tennis team. She's studying microbiology and is from Spain. When the season was cancelled, it wasn't the first time she heard of the coronavirus though.

She knew how quickly it was spreading because her family was under quarantine before there were any confirmed cases in Wyoming. But she and her teammates never expected the virus to affect her life so drastically. Like self-quarantining, the end of the tennis season, and having to finish their classes online.

"It actually was kind of shocking for us because we did not expect that," said Maria Oreshkina. She's Anna's teammate, and she's from Moscow, Russia. She's a sophomore at UW.

When classes moved online, Oreshkina took it really hard.

"It's emotional for me because when classes moved online, I lost my sense of purpose in the United States," she said.

All of their teammates are also international students from Europe. So when the university announced that all classes were going to move online, four out of seven teammates flew back home almost immediately.

"They wanted to go home so bad," Oreshkina said.

At first, they thought they'd eventually play tennis again, but their season and scheduled matches were suspended tentatively. They were told that they could still practice, and they'll be back to playing competitively.

"After a couple of hours, they just announced, 'Oh no, we canceled everything,'" said Oreshkina.

Royo and Oreshkina felt like they lost all their sense of purpose. Tennis made up most of their daily lives at UW. Most of their school work involves lab experiments because they both are science majors. To make things worse, Oreshkina can't go home because her country's borders are closed, and everything is under lockdown.

"I haven't seen my family in, I don't know, like nine months… And I really miss them and, it's really hard and tough," she said.

Royo also cannot leave the U.S. She has to stay here because if she leaves, she can't return.

No one from Europe is allowed to enter the U.S. due to the pandemic. And there's something else that makes all of this much harder: Royo is supposed to graduate this May.

"My friends were coming over to the states for my graduation. But they can't anymore. I mean, our flight was May 14, and it's not canceled yet, but, I'm just guessing it will be because everything in April is canceled," Royo said.

Having no immediate family support and friends from home, they rely a lot on each other as teammates.

"We try to work out all together, all the time at home, as long as I have my teammates, just a couple of them. They're my biggest support right now," Oreshkina said.

Even though it's bleak right now, Royo and Oreshkina are not giving up.

"We have hope but… We understand we have to be patient. Because every continent now has suffered this virus. So it's our turn now, and we just have to be patient and do whatever we can. We have to stay safe and stay at home," Royo said.

Oreshkina is not sure what her future holds, but she knows that she'll still continue school and get her degree. For Royo, she got a paid job in a graduate program and will stay here after she graduates. They're certain they'll make it through because they have each other.

Have a question about this story? Contact the reporter, Naina Rao, at nbadarin@uwyo.edu.

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