Life in Florida under Covid-19 measures for Omani PhD Student

Muscat: Ahmed al Matani is doing his PhD in ‘TESOL and Bilingual Education’ in the university town of Gainesville, Florida. He is accompanied there by his wife and son.  Studying at the University of Florida in the College of Education Al Matani hails from Jalan Bani Bu Hasan, Oman.

He appreciated Oman’s Ministry of Higher Education and Oman’s Cultural Attaché for playing an important role in keeping connected. “Omani students have been receiving emails from the Cultural Attache, Talal al Balushi and the ministry checking on the student’s whereabouts and their needs at the same time, and providing tips and advice on handling the current situation.  I would really like to express my appreciation and gratitude for their outstanding efforts and care,” he said.

He admits that big cities are affected by the Covid 19 but finds a positive note of having a great time to bond with his family members.

When asked how life has changed after the coronavirus attack, he said, “Classes are being shifted to online platforms, services are done online and shops are closed except for food and main supplies, but working hours in these big stores have been reduced. Some used to be 24/7 but that is not the case anymore.”

Eating out is not the same either even as many of the restaurants are not closed. “Now usually we cook our own food.  We usually get all our meat, chicken and other food items from a ‘halal’ store and cook at home.  There are few ethnic restaurants and shops that we sometimes go to, like Indian cuisine and Kabab House and the Middle Eastern restaurant.  But we have not been to any of them for the last two weeks, he explained.”

Part of the lifestyle is the prayers where there is a major impact.

“We have two mosques that we go to, but prayers are not held nowadays,” he said.

On the academic front, being a Ph.D student Al Matani doesn’t feel a lot of change. “To be honest, I do miss the religious aspect of going to the mosque to strengthen my spirituality especially living in a dominantly non-Muslim country. I also miss my study group. Now it is hard to socialise with friends for school purposes or even for fun.”

Also, as a family we used to spend Fridays together outside the apartment. Unfortunately, this is also not happening nowadays because of the virus spread.

These days, we rely on online shopping. I use Amazon for non-food item shopping. Publix and Walmart provide online shopping as well. The only place that I usually go to for shopping is the Middle Eastern shop since they don’t provide online services.  I try to limit my outdoor activities including shopping or any school activities.”

Libraries are closed, but there are more online services that are available to students.

“Most people tend to work online these days. I am used to online platforms as a student and teacher. I used that in Oman. I am used to blended learning. The Modern College where I work for is also shifting all classes into online teaching,” he explained.

But there have been more changes Al MAtani added, “I also miss my gym. I exercise inside with family now. My son loves imitating me when I exercise. I do appreciate one thing about this critical situation of imposed home quarantine. The situation has provided more quality family time. Since I cannot go to the university and more specifically the library, I have more time to chat with my wife and teach my son more things.”