While most Global UGRAD students will never have to experience the effects of a natural disaster while they are in the U.S., some of our Global UGRAD participants were caught up in an intense hurricane, Florence, that impacted communities across the Carolinas and the Southeastern United States. These students showed amazing bravery and perseverance in dealing with unpredictable events that Hurricane Florence brought to their host community. We reached out to students impacted by Hurricane Florence at Fayetteville State University. Their stories showcase the human impact of natural disasters and show the true resiliency of Global UGRAD participants. From our recent site visit to campus, we are happy to report that no one was hurt and that life is slowly returning to normal for these students. We thank their host communities and wish them the best as they continue pursuing their goals and furthering the mission of the Global Undergraduate Exchange Program. Read on to discover the first-hand accounts of what it was like to experience a hurricane from the eyes of our Global UGRAD participants:
“Fear, Despair, Frustration: those are the feelings we experienced when we learned about Hurricane Florence coming to Fayetteville! These emotions made the five of us take different directions. Three of us ended up staying in town and the other two decided to leave. The ones that stayed on campus were facing an unknown phenomenon, and the ones that left town were in expectation of what was going to happen and when they’d be able to return.
For those who stayed on campus, we were moved out of our residences four times because of the loss of power and network access. It was just amazing to see the display of attention that the university’s staff members gave us; they stayed with us despite the adverse weather. By the end of the storm, we were just tired, both mentally and physically, and couldn’t wait for all to get back to normal. Yet, it wasn’t all negative; we got to meet a lot of people, people who are now our friends. This experience was unique. It made us grow very quickly, develop skills that otherwise we wouldn’t have gotten. We are certainly using this to our advantage. We are now taking part in the hurricane relief with the American Red Cross. This is now a cause that is close to our hearts, having endured it for sure changed the way we see things. Summing up, Hurricane Florence was a remarkable event in our Global UGRAD experience, it was a huge life-lesson, and now we have the chance to use our leadership to leave our mark in this situation.”
“When my classmates told me that there was a hurricane coming I didn’t take it seriously because I thought it was just rain and nothing else. But I started to panic when I saw the news and the university announcement. I have never been in a situation like that at all. I wanted was to get out of here; I thought I would die. People were leaving and the other Global UGRAD students and I tried to leave too, but unfortunately things didn’t go as we planned and we ended up staying. It was a frightening moment. I was just waiting to die because the news kept saying the worst words possible. It was like a nightmare. We had to get out of our rooms and go to the safest buildings in the university where we would stay with other students that also couldn’t leave campus. When I got there things didn’t look good at all as everybody was afraid and we were all feeling sorry for one another. I was just thinking about their parents and my parents. We all had to stay in one place, I didn’t like that all, but it ended up being a great thing. Imagine if they had told us to stay in our rooms? I think that would have been much worse. Although we couldn’t sleep well in the shelter at least we had each other and that was good. I realized how a struggle can bring people together. The storm brought us together because it didn’t matter if we came from a different country, all we cared about was each other during the storm. But the environment wasn’t so sad all the time, we also played the card game Uno, we danced, we could sing and tell each other stories about our countries and our childhood, how our parents reacted whenever we did something wrong, and make fun of each other. I really loved these activities and exploring different cultures, so much so that sometimes I forgot that I was in a storm. The storm also made me think about my actions my question was ‘what if I really die today how people will remember me?’, ‘what changes did I bring in my community/what kind of student I am?’, ‘did I make a difference?’ All these thoughts made me really think about my actions on Earth and I really wanna make a difference in people’s lives before I die. And I believe that all happens for a reason. I came out of the storm a little grown up, famous because I have a lot of friends now, more responsible and a more determined person, stronger than I was before the storm. Now I was just want to help as many people as possible and I know that a person’s life can change in just a split second. I learned that from the storm. I would also like to thank the university staff that stayed with us during the struggle. They risked their lives just to take care of us and we found that very touching.”
“I never ever thought I would have to witness a hurricane in the United States of America. When I heard Florence was coming, I tried to explain to all of the people, including the Global UGRAD participants, that we needed to take precautions. Unfortunately, not all of the participants were able to make it off out of campus in time. Fortunately, I did. Sudden displacement in the middle of the semester wasn’t a delightful journey for me. The moment I was working my very best to adjust to the environment of my campus and university, the time had come to move out. The sought-after gypsy life started abruptly. I was roaming around alone in a strange city I had never encountered before. I kept thinking about my fellow participants, who had to go through the horrific tragedy. But we don’t have control over nature! A disaster can change people lives drastically and Florence did! After coming back to the city, I noticed the hurricane left so many scars and vandalized so many properties. We, the people of Fayetteville, are trying our very best to make the city normal again. But the hurricane also changed us. It made us more powerful, more experienced. Most importantly, we are not the same people anymore.”