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Return to India amid quarantine has advantages

UC international student discovers inner strengths while finishing classes halfway around the world

In less than a week Reeha Das had a flight booked, left most of her art materials with friends at the University of Cincinnati and was back in India. But the challenges she faced helped her discover strengths she didn't know she had.

UC's Reeha Das holds a 3D paper model in a DAAP design lab.

Before leaving campus to return to India, Reeha Das utilized a variety of artist supplies to create 3D designs.

"With the sudden lockdown in Delhi, I had no access to art supplies so I had to improvise to build my 3D designs," says Das, first-year industrial design student in UC's College of Design, Architecture, Art, and Planning (DAAP). "Instead of giving up and earning a lower grade, I finished the initial renderings on a web design program and created my 3D designs with clay I made from wheat flour and water in my parent's kitchen."

As UC's campus went online only in March as a result of the pandemic, students in campus housing packed up, moved back home and prepared to finish the semester from a distance. But for international students like Das, booking a flight home was not easy or affordable. Many airlines began inflating prices substantially before the international flights were to be shut down a week later, she says.

Das' father quickly booked her a flight, but it wasn't cheap. "And international students without the financial means to purchase tickets at that time were stuck, as well as others who may have had the means but weren't able to leave before the international shutdown," says Das. "So UC International helped those students file for continued housing on campus through the end of the semester and into the summer while maintaining quarantine protocol."

As a student in DAAP's five-year industrial design program, Das also has a math minor. "I was fortunate that I figured out a way to complete my design projects in time, but I scored low on one of my math exams," she says. "So I reached out to my professor to see if I could take any extra credit assignments. 

Rendering of a chess board with beige and orange chess pieces with hand tools carved on top of each.

As part of her project, Das created a virtual rendering of chess pieces that also serve as hand tools.

"He was understanding and said he would let me retake the exam at my convenience, so the faculty have been really helpful and understanding that way."

She says international students were even contacted by UC asking about any visa issues and their plans for continuing in the fall semester.

"For example, if I'm not back in the U.S. by Aug. 17, my visa will be voided, and I'll have to apply for a new one," she says. "UC is offering to assist if visas were to be a problem so they are trying to stay ahead of the curve."

Two UC students stand outside a DAAP design lab holding a fabric with black and white designs.

Das looks forward to returning to campus to see her friends and continue in her design studies.

Das plans to continue on in the fall even if classes are online. "I'm signed up again in professor Brigid O'Kane's design program. She's firm but I learn so much from her, and she is so understanding."

While it's hard being more than 8,000 miles away from campus, friends and activities, Das sees a lot of benefits.

"These situations really force you to think outside the box," she adds. "This was all a challenge and was really distracting. but being at home was a plus because it is quiet and secure and gave me the opportunity to focus on my projects much better in light of the chaotic global crisis."

 

Featured image at top: Reeha Das finished her industrial design projects from her home in India after the COVID-19 campus shutdown. Photo/Reeha Das

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