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Change of plans

COVID-19 alters travel plans for family living in Student Residences

Student Life

By Erin Delaney

Regular residence life – regular residence programming and events, eating meals with friends, attending study groups and socializing with other residents – came to a screeching halt at Memorial’s campuses on March 15, when students who were able to vacate residences were asked to do so as soon as possible.

Macpherson College at night on the St. John’s campus.
Photo: Submitted

In a normal semester, student residences are a hub of activity with more than 2,000 students living in on-campus housing between the St. John’s, Signal Hill and Grenfell campuses.

In order to ensure the safety and security of all student residents throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, the population living in residence needed to decrease. This helped to keep the students who found themselves unable to return home safe.

Home away from home

Due to the significant changes to air travel and border restrictions, there are students at all of Memorial’s campuses who found themselves unable to return home for the foreseeable future and remained living in residence into the spring semester.

Dr. Mohammad Islam Miah, along with his wife, Ovi and daughter, Amirah, have lived in family accommodations on the St. John’s campus since 2017.

From left are Dr. Mohammad Islam Miah, his wife, Ovi, and their daughter, Amirah.
Photo: Submitted

The pandemic resulted in an extended stay for the family – they are part of the group of 230 people still living on Memorial’s campuses.

As a recent graduate of a doctoral degree in oil and gas engineering, Dr. Miah and his family planned to return to their home in Bangladesh.

“Our original flights have been cancelled and we are still not sure when we will be able to travel home,” he said. “During this stressful time, Student Residences assured us that we would be allowed to remain on campus and we were incredibly thankful for that.”

Adapting to a new normal

Although life in residence is not the same as it was prior to the pandemic, the family has made the most out of a tough situation.

Dr. Miah adapted quickly to remote learning and successfully defended his PhD online. He’s also taken the time to volunteer to help students with their income tax filing.

Dr. Miah is pictured at centre during his virtual doctoral defense.
Photo: Submitted

“We’ve always respected and maintained the provincial restrictions due to COVID-19,” he said. “We venture out to purchase grocery items and medicine. Sometimes, we go out for walks around the ponds and also explore areas outside of campus for both our mental and physical health, while maintaining social distancing.”

While the family says they are grateful for the opportunity to call Student Residences home for the past three years, they will be happy to eventually return to their country.

Their daughter was born in St. John’s; they are looking forward to introducing her to her grandparents in Bangladesh when the time is right.

“We have been so happy to have the opportunity to explore campus, access research facilities and get involved in different volunteering activities at Memorial.  Stay safe everyone!”

For the safety of those who remained at Student Residences, social and physical distancing measures were put into place, schedules were created for the use of laundry facilities, shared kitchens and dining hall access, and residents were no longer permitted to have guests visit them on campus.

While some of these restrictions are now starting to relax in conjunction with provincial alert levels, residence life has yet to return to normal.

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