A sign hangs on a business in Bethlehem that reads "Stay Strong Bethlehem." Lehigh students remain in Bethlehem both on-campus and off-campus. (Courtesy of Tariq Al-Sherhan)

Students remain quarantined in Bethlehem

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Lehigh’s campus square is usually full of students walking to class, but as a result of the coronavirus pandemic and classes being moved online, Lehigh campus is empty and quiet. Only 230 students remain in on-campus dorms. (Courtesy of Tariq Al-Serhan)

The arrival of COVID-19 has driven life at Lehigh to a halt. A campus which once bustled with students is now quiet — buzzing libraries now vacant, residence halls and apartment buildings are empty.

Since President John Simon’s email to the Lehigh community on March 12, life for Lehigh students has changed drastically. The indefinite closure of campus and shift to remote learning has caused most students to return back to their permanent homes. 

But, some 230 students chose to remain on campus, and others are residing off campus in Bethlehem.  

Drew Patel, ‘21, has been living in SouthSide Commons with his roommates — two of which permanently reside in New York, the current epicenter of the coronavirus outbreak in the U.S. 

Home is not too far away for Patel, but he is taking the precautions necessary to ensure the safety of his older relatives. 

“I don’t want to get them sick because I have mingled with people before the outbreak started,” Patel said. 

Tariq Faisal Hayat Al-Serhan, ‘21, an international student from Jordan, didn’t have the option or time to return home. 

He was in Miami when he received Simon’s email, and by the time he got back, Jordan had banned all flights coming in and out of the country.  

Although this situation is not ideal, he said he commended Lehigh on its handling of the situation and the transparency that administration displayed each step of the way, especially in aiding Lehigh’s international population. 

“I know some people that Lehigh booked their flight back home and paid for those expenses,” Al-Serhan said. 

He is currently living in his Farrington Square apartment with one of his roommates and is practicing social distancing as best he can. 

Al-Serhan also said if he had gone back to Jordan there would be a seven-hour time difference. This would directly interfere with online lectures and meeting times, a reality that many students, both domestic and international, are now facing.

Evan Berke, ‘21, who would’ve been affected by this setback, didn’t see a point in returning home to Oregon. He has since been living alone in his off-campus house. 

Berke said while remote learning through Zoom and other means has proven to be effective, it’s not his preferred style of learning. 

Conversely, Al-Serhan said he is actually enjoying his experience. 

“I didn’t think I’d like them, but they’re pretty fun,” Al-Serhan said.

The three said the community on campus is mostly on the same page and are engaging in social distancing. 

Contrary to the collective notion that social distancing is boring and painful of sorts, Al-Serhan said he actually doesn’t mind it. He’s been staying inside, watching movies and getting his work done. 

Patel agreed, but said he suspects his opinions will change after a few more weeks of the same routine. 

Al-Serhan, like many, is attempting to remain positive during this time and recognize its historical significance. 

“We are in the middle of history,” Al-Serhan said. “We are very connected digitally, but no one is connected physically.”

It is evident that this experience has put things in perspective for many around the globe. 

“If this experience has taught me anything, it’s just to appreciate the time you have with people while you have it, because you never know what’s going to change and how quickly it could,” Berke said. 

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