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International college students bond together in uncertain times

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(WVVA) - It was a beautiful, sunshine-filled Friday in the Two Virginias. But, the sidewalks of Bluefield College were empty.

The campus is a virtual ghost town.

"I'm usually used to getting out of my apartment and seeing everybody walking around -- going to classes, going somewhere else," Bluefield College senior Gabe Blakman said. "But now, you leave your apartment and there's literally no one."

Almost no one.

Blakman is a senior at BC who will spend the rest of the semester on campus. As a soccer player, used to a full schedule, being cooped up in his apartment is foreign territory.

"I'm used to not being in my room at all," he admitted. "I'm used to going to practice, going to classes -- doing something else -- going to the cafeteria, going to work and then coming back to my apartment at night."

But, unlike many students, Blakman can't just drive home -- as home is 2,725 miles away in Guayaquil, Ecuador.

He's not the only one. Jieun Lee, Dong Young Kim and Victoria Atasie are three Concord students faced with similar situations.

"The risk of taking that plane back home -- you can't really find one-way flights and connecting flights are even riskier," explained Atasie, who is a sophomore.

"And I also think the most dangerous place for now is the airport," added Lee, who is set to graduate in December.

Lee and Kim are from South Korea. Atasie calls the West African nation of Nigeria home.

And as COVID-19 continues to spread, their families worry -- from afar.

"My mom has been watching CNN back home and she has been freaking out -- calling me everyday -- you know, 'wear your mask, wear your gloves,'" Atasie said.

Worrisome and uncertain. Two words to describe these students' current situations.

But, they've also learned a valuable lesson.

"Even though there are not that many people around -- I think you now know the value of having even two friends or three friends."

Nick Dugan

Sports Director

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