Students kept in Hawaii by virus facing financial challenges

Students kept in Hawaii by virus facing financial challenges

HONOLULU (AP) — International college students who were unable to return home at the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic remain in Hawaii with limited means to work and get food.

Many foreign students were stranded in the state by health restrictions established to stop the spread of COVID-19 that shut down international travel and embassies, Hawaii Public Radio reported Thursday.

Ann Hartman, dean of education at the East-West Center in Honolulu, said about 180 of the international educational organization’s students have remained, some living in the organization’s dormitories.

While the dorms provide shelter, other opportunities are sparse.

“As international students, we are only allowed to work on campus, like coffee shops, or as graduate assistants, or bookstores and things like that,” said Uyanga Batzogs, a graduate fellow from Mongolia at the center located near the University of Hawaii at Manoa.

Students are allowed to work 20 hours per week during the normal school year, and up to 40 hours during breaks in the academic schedule, Batzogs said.

The pandemic caused the University of Hawaii system to stop lectures and restrict services.

“With our campus closed, now, as international students, we can’t find the jobs or try to work full-time during summer break at all,” Batzogs said.

Seru Tagivakatini from Fiji said students like him rely on a $600 a month stipend from the East-West Center for expenses and face challenges obtaining adequate food.

“Food insecurity is very prevalent in not just among students in general, but more so for international students,” Tagivakatini said.

“Even before COVID-19, it was already an issue. Especially living here in Hawaii, it’s not easy and it’s kind of expensive for us international students,” Tagivakatini said. “It’s just gotten worse because of COVID-19.”

For most people, the coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough that clear up in two to three weeks. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia and death. The vast majority of people recover.

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