Finding the Positive in Difficult Situations: International students conquer the challenges of COVID-19

Finding the Positive in Difficult Situations: International students conquer the challenges of COVID-19

“…we must be able to take advantage of any situation, and to see the positive side of things even though those positive things are not clearly seen.”

– Marina Esmeralda Araujo Perez 

Like so many other international students throughout the United States, Marina came to the U.S. to study and eventually to build a career, which would provide great opportunity both financially and personally.  Her aspirations led her to University of Central Florida, where she currently studies English, with the goal to study civil or industrial engineering.  To her, the challenges of being an international student, assimilating to a new culture, and surviving difficult times like the pandemic all have lessons that make people stronger.  

“Always fight for your dreams, even if it involves making some sacrifices, then you will be rewarded with great achievements.”

Marina Esmeralda Araujo Perez


About 33% of international students reported to ISO that their health and wellness during this time has been affected in a negative way.  Many are worried about their families in their home countries, they are feeling extra levels of stress due to so many unknowns and struggling with loneliness from being in quarantine.  As an F1 student from Venezuela still in the U.S. during the COVID-19 pandemic, Marina reminds us to focus on the positive.  Use this extra time to connect with family, learn to self-reflect, establish a productive routine, and simply keep a positive mindset for the future have all provided Marina with new insight, which she hopes to share with students like her. 

Before the pandemic, the “rhythm of life,” as Marina describes it, often kept us distracted in our own routines.  For Marina, this time in quarantine has allowed her to “improve the relationship with [her] family.”  The past few months in shut down has caused her to become closer with her twin brother, who she lives with while abroad.  It has offered her and her brother the chance, “to reconnect and learn about the new versions that [they] are… after all these experiences.”  Marina has also found strong connection with her parents and her grandmother, as she has more time to call them, back home. 

“We did not realize that ‘simple’ things like going to your friends' house and spending a whole day talking and laughing at our silly stories are very valuable. This is when I realize that things are unpredictable and that we must enjoy day to day because we do not know what situation we may be in later.”

Marina Esmeralda Araujo Perez

The second lesson that Marina has experienced during this time in quarantine is to not take things for granted, no matter how small they may be.  Life’s “simple” things to her includes laughing and talking with her friends.  Do not let this time in quarantine distance you from those you care about.  Continue to connect, talk, and laugh with your friends who bring joy to your life. Things like Facetiming and watching shows or movies together on synched streaming sites like Netflix Party allows friends to remain close, no matter how much distance is between them. 

In addition to these new insights, the quarantine has provided Marina a new sense of independence that she may not have had before.  The time in lockdown has allowed her to reflect and become better at motivating herself to be productive.  This new-found maturity and sense of discipline comes from her realization that she, “will not always have someone by [her] side motivating [her] to be a productive person.”  Marina believes making personal progress depends on your own initiative.  It is your responsibility to set time to exercise, to do work, and to take care of yourself.  Like many, loneliness has been a challenge; but embracing this time alone has empowered her to feel that she can get by, “without having a certain person to complement [her] in every aspect of life.” 

“You should not be carried away by despair, since difficult situations make us grow…”

Marina Esmeralda Araujo Perez

Remember that people become stronger from the situations they learn how to handle, and this pandemic is just another experience we all will grow from.  Everyone should challenge themselves to make the most out of any situation.  With the lessons that Marina hopes we all can learn with her, she wants to leave you with the popular quote, “Be strong now, because things will get better, it might be stormy now, but it can’t rain forever.”

ISO will continue to feature the stories of students like you in our International Student Spotlight Series.  Click here to read the story of Khrisna, an international student working through the struggles of the pandemic while on OPT.  If you want to share your experience with us and have your story be featured, email today!

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