Outbreak Voices: A South Korean Student On Hunkering Down In New Haven Yale University sophomore Jenny Lee decided to stay on campus during the coronavirus outbreak and not return to her family in South Korea. She shares her experience.
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Outbreak Voices: A South Korean Student On Hunkering Down In New Haven

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Outbreak Voices: A South Korean Student On Hunkering Down In New Haven

Outbreak Voices: A South Korean Student On Hunkering Down In New Haven

Outbreak Voices: A South Korean Student On Hunkering Down In New Haven

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  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/819439619/819439620" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
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Yale University sophomore Jenny Lee decided to stay on campus during the coronavirus outbreak and not return to her family in South Korea. She shares her experience.

SCOTT SIMON, HOST:

Throughout today's program, we hear from people about how this outbreak is affecting them. Jenny Lee, an international student at Yale, says this certainly isn't the sophomore year that she expected.

JENNY LEE: When I first walked into campus after my spring break, it was - honestly, it felt like a different city. It's very empty. It's very empty.

SIMON: Her family is in South Korea, where they're weathering the pandemic. And she says they're doing well. Before spring break, when the coronavirus had just started to spread in the U.S., Jenny Lee says that she considered several options for the weeks ahead.

LEE: If I did go back to Korea, there was the risk of me taking the coronavirus with me there. And, obviously, I don't want my family to be affected by it. Another worry was classes. I didn't know how it's going to go through with these online classes happening. I've never been in this situation, so it's kind of unsettling. And I thought if I do go to Korea, the time difference might, I guess, kind of confuse me regarding how to wake up or stay awake until 3 a.m. And I just didn't know how I was going to deal with it, if I would - able to catch up with my work, focus. So combined with those reasons, I think, I decided to stay.

I was so lucky because a lot of my close international friends were staying here too. For example, I have a friend from Vietnam who decided to stay, a friend from Kenya who decided to stay. I've been meeting up with them as often that we can with the, like, safety precautions. And we've been just, like, trying to get meals together, if possible, work together. It would have been very lonely if I didn't have them.

(SOUNDBITE OF SERGIO DIAZ DE ROJAS' "CAN I READ LIFE AS A BOOK?")

LEE: With this going on, it's pretty much all we talk about. We express our worries about our family, friends, work, anything. But at the same time, we try to keep our minds off of it too, just trying to keep the positivity up. That isn't hard 'cause we're just genuinely pretty happy people. We always crack jokes together, talk about things that we would usually do as if nothing is impacting us.

I think one of the biggest things that I've learned throughout this whole time is that I really care about my friends. I really care about my family. Even if we weren't close, I care about how they're doing, if they're OK, and, honestly, vice versa. I feel like there's so many people who reached out and checked in if I was OK, if I needed anything. Many times, you can take granted for - of people who have always been by your side. Or you never realize how important it is to have their physical presence. They can never be taken for granted. There's always, always something important about them that should always stay with you.

SIMON: That's Jenny Lee, an international student at Yale University. She's staying on campus during the coronavirus outbreak.

(SOUNDBITE OF SERGIO DIAZ DE ROJAS' "CAN I READ LIFE AS A BOOK?")

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Correction March 21, 2020

A previous headline on this file incorrectly identified Jenny Lee as North Korean; she is South Korean.