Emma McDonald from New Zealand is a sophomore studying International Relations and Development and has been helping the LCC community during the time of quarantine. Emma took on a volunteer role alongside staff and faculty after necessary decisions were made and LCC moved all classes online due to the quarantine in Lithuania. During the first week of the quarantine, Emma and others helped students coming back from high-risk countries find accommodation and helped to keep students staying on campus informed about any changes.
How did LCC begin responding to the situation connected to the start of the COVID-19 pandemic?
Before Spring Break the LCC students were made aware that Northern Italy was a high-risk country and they were encouraged to adjust any travel plans to Italy. Many of them canceled or changed their flights and plans, expecting all Italy would quickly be added to the risk zone list. However, no one could have predicted how quickly other countries would become high-risk and join the list with Italy. 25 of our LCC students were initially affected and could not enter the LCC campus and after travel, but then that number started rising quickly as the countries were being added to the list. There were many students traveling back to campus and the Response team had to act fast and come up with a care plan for our community.
What kind of help was provided to the students who arrived from high-risk countries?
The students who could not find accommodation on their own contacted me and I provided them with information for housing. The digital request/response form has been created by the team of people who were managing different things so that students could easily reach us and let us know if they needed food or other essentials. Staff and student volunteers helped to pack belongings of those who had traveled and were unable to be present in the dormitory from government restrictions, but were returning from break and were immediately headed back to their home countries. Some of the staff and faculty members were able to drive several students to get transportation home before the busses started canceling their departures. Even though the circumstances changed drastically and very quickly and we had not been prepared ahead, we still were able to do a good job making sure our students were safe and cared for - off campus and on campus.
Why did you decide to volunteer to help students through this crisis?
I had asked if the staff needed my help during the Spring Break before the crisis, and during that time there was very little for me to do. However, after Thursday of that week, when we began receiving information about the changes needed, and about online classes, there was a lot of confusion. I decided to jump in and help to answer all the questions coming in from students, help to find accommodation and to keep them updated. I felt that was the least I could do to help our Residence Life staff and faculty. I like to encourage the members of our community to help each other as much as possible because we must stick together now.
What are your thoughts about the current spirit at LCC? How are students dealing with this unsettling situation?
I think students feel a bit uncertain, as most of us are feeling with the constantly changing situation. They are not sure when the borders will open or whether they will be able to go home. Seniors are unsure how their thesis defenses will go or how a graduation ceremony will be possible. Many had to say goodbye to their friends and professors too soon and feel sad and lonely. However, everyone is trying to keep good spirits and to make the best out of this situation, by keeping a positive attitude and being happy. We are still the LCC Community and are supporting and helping each other as much as we can.
What advice would you like to give to the student body?
It will definitely get better. Do not worry about it too much and keep a positive attitude. Of course, this situation is not ideal but we should look at it as a challenge that humanity will fight and get through. We can do this together.