GEM Students Reflect on Pursuing Education in a Global Pandemic

This year’s SNHU GEM Annual Impact Report focuses on what it’s like for our refugee students to pursue their education in a global pandemic. 

Through unmatched tenacity, creativity, and grit, we’ve seen that our students haven’t missed a beat in working towards their degrees and participating in internship programs. In fact, 90% of GEM students are on track to graduate in four years, compared to 95% pre-pandemic. 

Hand in hand, we’ve also seen GEM students serve as leaders in their communities throughout the pandemic, creating and distributing masks, running public education campaigns, and helping with basic essentials like food and shelter for their fellow community members. 

As we look to the year ahead, we wanted to share stories on what it’s like to live, work, and learn as refugee students in a global pandemic. 


Cesar, GEM student in South Africa: 

“The COVID 19 pandemic came as a bombshell to everybody worldwide. However, I’d say that for us GEM students, it didn’t get to a critical level as most of us are trained to adjust to problems, regardless of the cause.

Reflecting on our studies, I’d say that it wasn’t affected too negatively. We’re familiar with working remotely, since our program is an online study program where every student progresses at their own pace. In addition, the center assisted with internet data to help students to be able to work at home.

Our program not only covers the academic material, but also trains students to become problem solvers. This helped us get through this challenging period.”


Benita, GEM student in Rwanda: 

“On March 14 2020, the first case of a person suffering from COVID-19 was discovered in Rwanda. [The pandemic] really impacts a lot of the country in different ways that also impact us as students – in terms of education, employment and living standards.

Today, unemployment is the other crucial issue that the country is facing.My dad’s contract was terminated and just a few of us were working from home. I had an internship under GEM and it helped me so much to support my family in that situation.

Personally, being a GEM student is a blessing. It helped me in this situation and I realized how lucky I am.” 


Daud, Zamzam, and Rita, GEM students in Kenya:

“The global pandemic has surfaced existing gaps between the refugee communities and humanitarian organizations. But we know that we can play an important role in helping both refugees and host communities who are impacted by COVID-19.

We have started a weekly podcast to create awareness around COVID-19 and other topics such as community health. Our podcast is recorded using various languages such as Dinka, Somali and Nuer. What makes our project unique is that our episodes can be reshared and are accessible 24/7.

Similarly, we’re trying to reach out to people living with disabilities and vulnerable members in the community to support them during the pandemic.” 

For more student reflects and stories of impact, read the GEM

2020 Annual Impact Report: