April 8, 2020

Finding Hope

Haruka Hamanaka, a senior international student, reflects on her experiences amidst COVID-19

Haruka Hamanaka, a senior international student, reflects on her experiences amidst COVID-19

Haruka Hamanaka (’20 communicating arts major) is an international student from Japan in the last semester of her senior year. A beloved and active member of the UW-Superior campus community, she is president of the World Student Association and a track & field athlete. Her senior year was abruptly interrupted when COVID-19 necessitated her immediate return to her home country to complete her studies online. Within mere hours, Haruka had to make life-altering decisions, secure travel arrangements, and pack up (or give away) all her belongings. She credits members of the UWS community for helping her navigate this difficult time.

From her home in a high-rise apartment complex in Osaka, Japan, Haruka reflected on her experiences. After graduating, she plans to attend graduate school at UC-Davis next fall to continue to pursue her dream of becoming a successful journalist and storyteller.
 

Because the events surrounding COVID-19 are happening not only to me, but everyone, I cannot complain about anything. But I also cannot deny that I was really frustrated when I had to leave the campus so suddenly without saying goodbye to my friends, professors, my track coach and academic advisor. I never expected to end my final semester at UW-Superior like this.

This coronavirus deprived me of every campus activity that I had been looking forward to. Cultural Night was one of those events that I had been putting so much time and energy into as the president of World Student Association. I am still in shock to think it is never going to happen. I also lost the chance to run my last season of track & field as a senior athlete and to finish my career strong. On top of that, I won’t be able to realize my dream of crossing the stage at commencement, wearing my cap and gown and celebrating with my friends.

Haruka Hamanaka video link

At first, it seems like I have lost more than I have gained because of this situation, but I’m beginning to realize that is not true. I am learning many important life lessons. I feel like I have already become more flexible, patient, and kind, and am handling negative feelings much more effectively. All of this has been inspired by the people around me. I truly appreciate the sincere support I received from international office and residence life staff, and my professors when I learned I had to leave the campus. Despite the difficult circumstances, they were so caring, understanding and flexible. I realized the UWS community really cares for every single one of its students, no matter how difficult the situation.

I now see that I should be much more grateful for things I previously took for granted. What I used to think of as “a normal day” is something I truly wish I could have again. Face-to-face classes, my job on campus, student organization activities, meetings with faculty – I miss all these seemingly small but precious activities that I used to experience on a daily basis.

Through it all, I have learned there is something that the coronavirus can never take away from us – hope. As long as we believe that we can overcome this intense situation, the bright spring day will return to our beloved UWS campus.

While the virus has exposed human beings’ physical fragility and vulnerability, it has also revealed our amazing strength and resolve. We will defeat this virus by standing together as global citizens. Now is the time that our humanity is being tested on a global scale. I will continue to do my part spreading hope to people around me, even if it is small. I may no longer physically be at UWS, but I will continue to work hard as an international student until my graduation day arrives here in my home country of Japan. Let’s unite and fight through this together as UWS community members, despite the physical distance.

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"Through it all, I have learned there is something that the coronavirus can never take away from us – hope. As long as we believe that we can overcome this intense situation, the bright spring day will return to our beloved UWS campus."
- Haruka Hamanaka,
UW-Superior senior international student

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