Students at the University of Houston returned to classes for the first time Tuesday. Over a week ago, Hurricane Harvey had rocked the city with record flooding, but the water around town had receded and things were starting to feel normal again, for the most part.
“It’s been good so far,” said sophomore Valentina Diaz. “I think it’s a little chaotic because they have to change around my classes. Some places are still being cleaned up.”
Despite being located near the center of Houston, the university’s campus buildings sustained only minor water damage, according to a university official.
Transfer student Adriana Galindo was excited to be back, but said it felt much less crowded and busy.
“Even though the school is open, my classes are not meeting,” said Galindo. “My teachers are being considerate of the other students that were affected more by Harvey.”
For nearly everyone, the hurricane was personal and still on the minds of many. Freshman Amber Duarte and her family experienced more than 20 centimeters of water in their house in the Bellaire section of Houston.
“Normally, the water would only come up to the driveway, and then like, within minutes it came into the house,” said Duarte.
“We got up to 5 feet [150 centimeters] of water in our house,” said freshman Aramish Khan, who resides in the Memorial section of Houston.
“It was like, really high and it was there for a whole week. It just got out yesterday,” said Khan, “Our house smells awful and our whole neighborhood smells awful.”
University President Renu Khator was making the rounds to classrooms, offering students her support.
“It adds an extra layer of complexity for students. It’s a lot easier for them to get overwhelmed. It’s a lot easier for them to still feel traumatized and shocked. Plus, they have many other problems to deal with,” said Khator.
One of those problems happened to be the announcement by Trump administration officials to phase out the DACA or Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program.
DACA students like Abraham Garcia were contending with next steps, “I knew something like this could have happened, that was always an option.”
Garcia was still determined to graduate, “The only thing we can do is move forward and try and pursue our education. We understand that education is the key to ultimate success.”
“We want to help people complete their dreams, to realize their dreams. And we are here for all the students” said Khator, “Even though we don’t know who is undocumented on campus, it doesn’t matter, they’re all our students.”
Armando Salinas, another DACA recipient, remained hopeful. “You can’t be living in fear,” he said.
Having already been through Hurricane Harvey, these Houstonians knew a thing or two about perseverance.