Kayele Silue wanted to finish her last semester as an undergraduate abroad. Although she had already spent one semester in Madrid, Spain in 2018, she met her required credit hours and wanted to immerse herself in another culture before beginning her master's program at the Weatherhead School of Management in the fall.
In January 2020, Silue settled into her new dorm at the American University of Sharjah in United Arab Emirates, excited for the new experiences that lie ahead. What she didn’t realize was how quickly the COVID-19 pandemic would escalate, and the impact the virus would have on those plans.
While on a school trip to the Grand Mosque in Abu Dhabi at the end of February, Silue and her classmates received an email that would change the remainder of their semester.
“We were told that all school trips, outings and gatherings were cancelled. There was a lot I was looking forward to, and all of that got cancelled very suddenly,” Silue said. “We definitely did not see that coming until we received that email.”
Three days after receiving this email, Silue and her classmates were told that all in-person classes were also cancelled and transitioned to online classes. The break was intended to only last three weeks, with students returning to in-person classes at the beginning of April after the university’s spring break.
“It was over those three weeks that we saw the development of the virus and realized that it would be very unlikely that we would go back to school after spring break” Silue said. “Just like that, by the time we reached spring break, they announced that they would teach online classes through the end of the semester.”
An international student from Côte d'Ivoire, Silue made the decision, for both financial and health reasons, to not return to the United States or to her home country, and instead stay on campus at the American University of Sharjah.
“Remote learning was a little strange at first as it was completely new to me, but my professors here continuously provide a lot of support and do a great job at ensuring the difference between our remote and in-person learning is limited to the delivery channel only,” Silue said.
As one of the few students who remain in the dorms, Silue says campus is mostly vacant.
“Campus is definitely emptier than it used to be, but every once in a while, you’ll see people out for walks or riding their bikes,” Silue said. “It’s strange to walk around and not see many people. But that has been going on for over a month now so we’re all kind of used to it.”
As an active member of the Case community – serving as the treasurer for the Undergraduate Diversity Collaborative, a member of the Student Turning Point Society and a student assistant for UTech – Silue says she looks forward to being back on campus, although she recognizes that may not be for some time.
“My class has been with each other for four years, and it’s very unfortunate that we aren’t able to celebrate graduation together physically” Silue said. “The ceremony has been cancelled for a greater cause. Even if it’s hard right now, I think we will all be able to look back and see the good in this decision.”
Upon graduation this spring, Silue will complete the integrated finance program at Weatherhead and graduate in May 2021 with her Master’s of Science-Management in Finance. After leaving an impression during her two internships at Ernst and Young, the multinational company offered Silue a job within the Risk Advisory group once her master’s degree is completed.