When COVID-19 forced Lehigh to move classes online last spring, Omogolo "Bishop" Pikinini '23 was confronted with the same dilemma that many international students faced: Should he return home to his native country (for Pikinini, that’s Botswana) to be with his family, or stay on campus even despite the fact that in-person interactions and campus activity would be limited?
Ultimately, given the tumult the pandemic was creating in terms of immigration policy, Pikinini decided to stay in South Bethlehem. And he admits that months of being separated from family—and not knowing when he might see them again—has proven difficult.
"I had an option to go home," he says. "But when the immigration issues started going... they advised us to stay, because the immigration policies were very inconsistent. So it was best that I stay here and at least go through the fall semester and see if things would be better by then."
"I have to depend on myself,” he adds. “I [don’t have] the comfort of family. And yeah, that comes with a toll, especially the emotional part."
Though the day-to-day of pandemic life has presented struggles, Pikinini, an aspiring hip hop artist, has found some solace in music, and in sharing his talent with the broader community. Early this past summer, Pikinini and his good friend Adrian Suarez '22 helped launch a virtual variety show to help raise funds for local nonprofits. “Lehigh Strong: A COVID Relief Variety Show" was broadcast via YouTube on June 27.
“Adrian is my closest friend here,” Pikinini says. “I think we were playing soccer [one day] and he bounced me an idea. ‘So, what, what do you think if we do something for COVID-19, especially for the frontline workers?’ And I said, ‘Well that's a beautiful idea.’ … We started recruiting some of our friends and made a team. It took us about a month or two to work on it, but at the end it was a really beautiful project. It was one of the highlights of my year, and it gave me something to look [forward] to.”