PSU international students share how COVID-19 has disrupted their lives

International student athletes address NCAA cancellations, fallout

Portland State student athletes previously responded to the NCAA’s decision on eligibility for spring sport athletes and shared how the changes have had an impact on their lives. Many of those same athletes offered their perspective specifically as an international student and addressed how the cancellations, adjustments to eligibility and border lockdowns have affected their plans for the future. The following are selected responses from PSU international student athletes.   


As an international student, how have these cancellations or the subsequent travel bans being implemented had an impact on your personal life? 


Gerda Upeniece Junior, women’s tennis: I’m from Riga, Latvia, and just like in the majority of European countries, my country’s borders are closed. I’m currently staying at PSU and waiting for the next repatriation flight back home. I’m still living on campus, and I have all the needed resources and access. For now, I’m learning how to keep myself busy and positive. One big takeaway that this pandemic is teaching us is that tomorrow isn’t promised, so we have to enjoy and live our life on the fullest.


Nina Nikitovic Junior, women’s tennis: Being an international student in this kind of situation was especially hard. I had to make a decision in less than 15 minutes if I should buy a ticket to go back home. My country was closing its borders, and I caught the last flight. It was not an easy decision that I had to make, especially as everyone was advising us to stay and not go back home. Hopefully, I will be able to return back in the fall, [but] as it comes to now I have no idea what is going to happen. 


Valerie Hernandez Senior, golf: I bought the ticket to go back home the day before, which I never thought was going to happen. Not because the season was being canceled but because borders were closing in the next couple of days. At this time, you don’t really know what’s a good decision or not because you don’t really know what’s going to happen. Decisions from governments, schools and teams are being made daily, which is not convenient for anyone, but we have to be patient. Today, I still don’t know when I will be able to go back to the [United States], which is a bit worrying for me, and not knowing when things will go back to normal.


Eszter Zador Senior, women’s tennis: I was not planning on going home anyway until June. However, seeing my friends go home and me staying in the states by myself without my loved ones makes me sad sometimes. However, the fact that my family is safe makes me happy, and I communicate with them almost every day.


Sam Roberts Junior, men’s tennis: Since our season has been canceled for the rest of the year my family and I decided that it was best for me to go back home [in the U.K.] for the next 5-6 months until school resumes in September, assuming everything has gone back to normal by then.


Otto Holtari Junior, men’s tennis: Once we first heard that the season was canceled, we were encouraged that we should not return to our home countries yet because there is no guarantee that we can come back in September if the President decides to keep the borders closed. In a week from that, almost all of my international friends from here and other schools had gone home. So, I don’t really think it has affected my situation because I have a good apartment here where I can stay, and I can still go back home whenever I choose to. 


Ruchae Walton Redshirt junior, women’s basketball: As an international [student] I had to make the decision to fly back home to the U.K. as quickly as possible. It was a little chaotic trying to find flights and pack because I did not know exactly how long I would be at home for. I hope to get back to the U.S. soon so my team and I can get back to work in preparation for the upcoming season. 


Jacinta Milenkoski Sophomore, women’s tennis: As Australia stopped 90% of [its] flights, I had to quickly make a decision on whether I wanted to come home or not during finals week, which I decided to do. Currently, I can only fly back to the U.S. for emergency reasons, so depending on how the pandemic is during the fall will impact my ability to return to the U.S. 


How might these changes be affecting your future here at PSU?


Hernandez: Fortunately, I was able to go back home since they gave a four-day notice of closing borders. However, that’s not the first thing I wanted to do, especially being this my senior year. At this moment, they are extending our lockdown and I’m not sure how long it will be or if it will be the last. Not knowing when I will return to PSU is stressful and not knowing what will happen for me in the next year too, since I have to make a decision sooner or later. 

Roberts: I am currently back home. I don’t think that it will have an impact on my ability to return back to PSU. However, I can’t say that with 100% certainty because there is a possibility that, come fall term, I won’t be allowed back into the U.S. Personally, I don’t think that will happen though.