We are #RooReady for fall semester classes. Learn more about the UMKC response to the global COVID-19 pandemic and get the latest updates and safety information from the CDC.

International Student Ambassador Shares His Experiences in Self-Quarantine

Engineering major Joshua Koni is coping with the challenges
Joshua Koni at UMKC Miller Nichols Library

As students and faculty are adjusting to online classes, socially isolating and the advantages and challenges of learning and socializing via Zoom, Joshua Koni, a current international student ambassador had to make the decision to stay in Kansas City or return to his home in Cameroon in central Africa. He decided to stay and is making adjustments as he juggles school and the separation from his family and friends.

How have you been adjusting during the transition?

I am trying to stay positive. My situation could be so much worse. I was in an apartment with a roommate and I had about a week to decide if I should go home, stay with my roommate or move in with my host family. I’ve known them for the last five years and they are great. It was hard to know what to do, but I decided to stay with my host family. Now I’m living in a house with nine people.

How have you been managing?

It’s been fine. For a while, we were taking turns going to the grocery store, so we had the opportunity to get out a little. But as we had more information we were concerned about the virus spreading further with the more people who are out. Now we’re having groceries delivered and are pretty much home all the time.

Being isolated is challenging. How are you handling it?

Mostly, I feel very lucky. Some international students could not find families to stay with in the United States. Online school and Zoom classes are a significant adjustment.

"It was hard to know what to do, but I decided to stay with my host family. Now I'm living in a house with nine people." - Joshua Koni

What’s working for you?

First of all, I’m glad we have Zoom! It’s been a good tool for me and I am mostly finding the resources that I need. I know that some of my teachers are using Zoom for the first time. We are all working through the challenges.

What’s the biggest adjustment?

The lack of interaction is difficult. Sometimes I am recording classes and watching them later. It gives me the opportunity to move through things I know and focus on new information.

What’s your most significant personal challenge outside of school?

Isolation from my fellow students and friends. A lot of my friends are international students who went home, but I was able to talk to one of my friends who had gone back to France. She said she’s also struggling with motivation.

Does the situation make you anxious?

Yes. It’s especially difficult because we don’t know how long we’ll be in this situation. I know it’s been hard for some of my friends to stay home and isolate. Spring break – when we did not have classes – was even more challenging. 

"I think we need to remember that we are in this together."- Joshua Koni

How are you managing that anxiety?

Part of it is just not having enough to do to stay busy. I play guitar and I’ve been coloring this map, which has been a good way to spend time. I’m not much of a gamer, but I am giving it a try with my host family. It’s a good way to spend time with them.

I’m in touch with my family back home, which also helps. They are doing well. They haven’t had the order to stay home, so their life isn’t that different. 

You were responsible for volunteers for Culture Night, one of the largest events, this year. It must have been disappointing when that had to be cancelled.

Yes, it was something that I really enjoyed doing. It seemed like a full-time job planning it, but it felt good to be a contact person for the new students. A lot of students – not just international students – look forward to the festival. But once we became aware of how things were escalating in New York, we were concerned about the number of people who might be exposed. We are hoping we will be able to reschedule early in the fall semester next year. We haven’t gotten a decision on that, but that would be ideal.

You are in a safe place and have good support systems. Do you have any advice for other students on handling this situation?

I think it’s good to be conscious that this is a hard time. Sometimes I feel guilty in one sense – because I had options – but I am so grateful. I think we need to remember that we are in this together. It’s been great to see the emergency funds that the university and the Student Government Association have raised. People shouldn’t hesitate to take advantage of those if they need them.

And I think it’s a good idea to have fun when you can. There’s nothing wrong with a virtual happy hour!

My hope for other students is to remain positive and hopeful during this time, find something to do in addition to doing schoolwork and stay connected with organizations. Video call friends and family members, get enough sleep, work out with a friend virtually, start a puzzle or board game, paint something, play an instrument, bake some bread. Above all, play your part in slowing the spread of the virus by washing hands and staying home.

Published: Apr 6, 2020

Top Stories