Leticia Alves Ribeiro Sobrinho ’22 has never experienced campus life at Oglethorpe University. She transferred to Oglethorpe in Fall 2020, when the university had decided to offer 100% remote education due to the pandemic. Since the beginning of her career at Oglethorpe, she has had to meet her professors and fellow Petrels online.
In December, she decided to return home to visit her family in Sao Paolo, Brazil for the holidays. Though she was aware that a rising number of cases could cause the borders to close during her stay, she worked with Oglethorpe’s Global Education office to prepare in the event she could not return — which is precisely what happened. Unable to come back to Atlanta, she would spend most her spring semester sharing a small apartment in Brazil with her family.
While in Brazil, Sobrinho lists the challenges she faced in her new living situation: attending classes and events from a different time zone, interruptions during class, insecurity about her English and the inability to access certain webpages.
“Personally, switching languages before the beginning of class was not easy,” says Sobrinho, “and I would often forget words in English because I was not using the language as often and all my family members can only fluently speak Portuguese.”
For Sobrinho to return to the U.S., she needed to stay in another country for 14 days before returning to Atlanta, where she had a dog awaiting her return. She stayed in Mexico to wait out her travel ban before heading back to Atlanta.
“During the entire time I was thinking of what to do, the internal student office offered me help and guidance,” she says, “Also, we do weekly checkups on Friday Fun which allowed me to meet some international students and have a closer relationship with faculty even during the current circumstances.”
Yemariam Workneh ’23 is an international relations major and an economics and French double minor from Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. Currently, she is attending Oglethorpe remotely from her aunt’s house in Atlanta.
Usually a social and outgoing person, Workneh has felt particularly drained by remote learning. She misses her friends on campus and getting to learn in a classroom.
“The whole concept of doing things virtually has changed the way college life works and it is much more difficult to meet people and share experiences,” says Workneh, “However, the clubs on campus that I am involved in have made it easier for me to feel like I still have a college life.”
She cites her freshman year advisor Assistant Registrar Melinda Peerboom ’12 as one of the Oglethorpe staff members who has gone above and beyond to help her through the pandemic. She would have regular Zoom calls with Workneh to check up on her and help her feel motivated.
“I would not have survived the pandemic if it were not for Melinda Peerboom,” says Workneh.