Graphic by Isabel Gitten
Many international students are struggling to make travel plans so that all students can study on campus this winter following the October 28 announcement by Northwestern.
As of the 2019-20 academic year, NU’s international community will consist of over 8,000 members from 129 countries worldwide. The university’s decision to admit all students is just one hurdle. Many international students are now facing country-specific travel bans, problems obtaining visas and rising COVID-19 cases in the US.
With China listed in the current travel ban, returning Chinese international students with visas must fill a loophole in the ban to enter the US, according to Audney Guo, president of the Chinese International Student Association. Students must reside in another country currently accepted by the United States for 14 days prior to entry.
“Chinese children ask themselves every day, ‘Are you going back? Do you go back? But no one has an actual answer because it’s just difficult, ”Guo said.
Newbie Medill, Lucy Dai, who lives in Beijing, said she was considering following a complicated itinerary. After attending secondary school in Delaware, she still has a year on her visa, which gives her the opportunity to make a return decision that many international students without a visa lack.
“They don’t even have a choice whether or not to come on campus,” Dai said. “There is only one option for her – you cannot come.”
Medill newbie Gabriella Nyambura has a visa, but she said she still faces challenges flying to Evanston from her home in Kajiado, Kenya. The financial support she received for travel expenses only applies to flights on US airlines that require her to book a stopover in Europe. However, current US policy advises against a stopover in Europe. The US has refused entry to travelers from over two dozen European countries within the last 14 days.
Still, Nyambura said that six of the seven international students she knows from Kenya are currently planning to return for the winter quarter.
Second year communications, AV Vo said he feared he would not be able to return home in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam, for the summer, which made him reluctant to go to Evanston. With heightened travel restrictions, the ability to find flights home from the US after the quarter isn’t guaranteed, he said.
Instead, Vo plans to stay at home with his family and prepare for his asynchronous courses alongside international fellow students with similar circumstances.
“We’re just trying very hard to develop our own sense of community,” said Vo. “Even if it looks very different than on campus, it’s still better than having no community at all.”
With tentative plans to stay home in Shanghai for the next quarter amid rising cases in the US, Guo echoed the thoughts of many students planning to continue studying remotely.
“I can’t even remember what it’s like to go to school on campus,” said Guo. “Now I wake up every day and work alone.”
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