Covid-19: How pandemic is affecting foreign students in the United States

Gitika Talwar
Gitika Talwar

Indian American clinical psychologist Gitika Talwar tells how to deal with pandemic stress and visa worries.

The coronavirus pandemic has engulfed almost every aspect of our lives. With people losing their loved ones, jobs and security, it is hard not to feel dejected or anxious.

Dr Gitika Talwar, a community-clinical psychologist  talks to the American Bazaar on the toll Covid-19 has taken on students and the anxiety many Indian American students are experiencing due to visa worries.

Dr Talwar, an immigrant from India, works as a psychotherapist at a health care center associated with a premier medical institution in the Pacific Northwest. Her clinic is located at a university campus, so she deals with a lot of students as part of her work.

Dr. Talwar, who got her PhD from University of Maryland, Baltimore County, answers some of the most pertinent mental-health related questions during these stressful times.

What kind of work are you doing in the current Covid-19 crisis?

As a psychotherapist for students at a university, I am helping students deal with the changes in their life as a result of the pandemic.

Now that classes are online, students are having to adapt to “working from home” and just like the working professionals across the nation trying to deal with the pandemic, the students are trying to figure out a way to manage being at home and staying safe.

Some of the students work part-time at jobs at grocery stores or restaurants where they have to be out of the home.

RELATED: American Bazaar’s Covid-19 coverage

On a university campus there are also a lot of international students who are unable to leave the country due to covid-related travel bans or the fear of not being able to return to the US if there are domestic travel restrictions in the future.

The international students, just like our immigrant workers across the US are dealing with the dual stress of the pandemic and impact of USCIS closures on their visa paperwork.

Plus there is long-distance separation from family with no certainty around when they will see them. Students are also worried about the health of their family members, especially the elderly or those with pre-existing health issues since the public discussion around the pandemic talks about those being high-risk groups.

What are the challenges you are seeing people, especially students experience? Are there any new disturbing insights you have seen develop?

People are frequently worrying about how to manage their workloads, studying or working from home. Some are worrying about finances as students have limited job options since campus is closed and many work in local businesses that have reduced hours for all.

For many people there is fear about the future. Would they be able to stick to their plans around graduation, moving, etc. The most disturbing insight has been that our everyday lives provide people with a lot of distraction and escape, which the pandemic has taken away.

As a result, sometimes people are dealing with their stress in unhelpful ways – getting into arguments with people, experiencing irritation without any relief.

Sometimes people could experience an increase in thoughts about hurting themselves. I have been reading about an increase in domestic violence, which is also very typical when there is a large-scale stress like pandemic, war, political unrest.

I typically encourage people to reach out to a crisis line if they need to speak to someone and come up with a plan to keep themselves safe if they are in the danger of hurting themselves or the danger of someone hurting them.

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