Pandemic Complications Create Increased Uncertainty Among International Students

Between the ongoing pandemic and the division in American politics, many international students are fearful that conditions will not be safe enough for them to enter the United States anytime soon.

As most international students are citizens of countries around the world, they are required to apply for and receive a student visa before they are allowed to travel to the United States. COVID restrictions are based on the country from which students are applying and each country has a vastly different visa process. As a result, this process has proven to be an ongoing challenge for international students.

COVID cases have recently been increasing in South Asia. As a result, many international students were unable to be on campus this semester because their countries were not proceeding with visa applications. Students are fearful that it will remain the same based on the current severity of  COVID.

Maisa Maliha ‘24, who is from Bangladesh, was unable to be on campus this semester. When asked how her visa application process was going, she reported that it is, “still in the process, but very difficult right now.”

“I had my visa appointment cancelled before, but I got my visa now in a short period after the embassy opened in my country,” said Amna Fayyaz ‘24 who is from Pakistan. 

Students from other countries have been more at-ease regarding the visa situation because many East Asian countries have the pandemic under control and have already reopened.

Amanda Tran ‘24 is from Vietnam and was able to receive her visa relatively quickly and fly out to Pennsylvania to be on campus this semester. “The process of attaining a visa was easy for me since I did it in July, and I know more or less peers from my country who got the visa at least after me,” she said, “however, I have heard that some peers from other countries struggle with the process.” 

Leaving family and friends is difficult enough for many international students. Now, many of them are overburdened with stress about the transition along with worrying about precautions that domestic students are not typically faced with.

When asked about the travel preparations she has to make, Maliha said “Managing safe travel, taking medications that might not be available there, getting certain vaccinations, extra supplies, extra documents, etc.”

The divided political climate is another cause of fear for many international students that are travelling thousands of miles to be on campus. They are fearful of their safety regarding COVID and the divided and often hostile political climate. 

“I’m not too sure about the US being safe right now” said Fayyaz.

Tran said, “Politically speaking I would say I hope it gets safer in the spring, because right now it is not really safe for a POC [Person of Color] student like me. [The] Popel Shaw Center actually emailed students on campus like me warning us about potential verbal abuse, etc… towards POC and LGBTQ+ from political extremists in Carlisle.”