As universities and colleges plan to reopen in a few weeks,
international students are experiencing unique challenges.
At some campuses, programs have been cut in half due to
Those who remain face uncertainty about visas and their
place in a society far from home.
“UT Dallas is committed to all of our students and greatly
values those who choose to come to the United States for their education. We
will support our international student community and make sure they have
resources they need to have a successful academic semester,” the school said in
Other campuses are doing the same, after what has been a
very nerve-wracking summer leading up to the start of school.
“I know it can be a very hard time for everybody right now,” said Dongxue Tan of Dallas Baptist University.
When we last spoke to her in February, she was watching the novel coronavirus ravage her native China from afar.
“It just got so bad in China and I was worried about my
parents,” she recalls.
Now, the years are adding up since she has seen her family. She spent nearly three years earning her masters at DBU and was hoping to see them in March for a planned visit. However, she was forced to cancel the trip and hunker down as the virus spread across the world.
“They have been prepared that they probably won’t see
me in the following two years,” she said.
Ever since, many other students flew home and now are unable
to come back due to travel restrictions. But Tan is now using her skills to
DBU hired her on as an admissions counselor to guide those
students abroad into a fall semester online.
“At the beginning of the summer, all of them were so
confused on how they were going to finish their education. So we get to
communicate with everybody, passing out information to them,” she said.
Roland Ye is an environmental science major from Burkina
“Being far away from my family was a difficult time,”
he said. “I’m glad with technology, we’re still able to talk and see each
other on video call.”
With graduation just around the corner, he decided to stay
and not risk his degree.
“I was thinking about going back home but at the same
time, I was wondering because I needed to renew my student visa. It’s better to
stay here because we don’t know how this thing is going on,” he said.
Those visa uncertainties have added to the stresses for
Last month, the Trump administration threatened deportation of international students with F-1 or M-1 visas if they took online courses only and were not enrolled in any in-person classes.
After widespread backlash and lawsuits from states and schools like MIT and Harvard, that order was rescinded in mid-July.
“It does impact students who have taken a big financial
and maybe personal risk to come to the U.S.,” said Dr. Jay Harley, student
affairs vice president at DBU. “They’ve put their lives on hold in their home
country to come study.”
Harley said they have been working hard throughout the summer to take care of international students who decided to stay and continue their education in the U.S. DBU worked with local churches to provide free meals and even kept housing open throughout the pandemic.
takes a lot of care and individual conversations on our part to work with those
students and reassure them that the universities here for them,” he said. “Students
have anxiety. They’re concerned. But yet, they want to be in class, they want
to keep moving forward,” he said.
UT Arlington is anticipating around 3,000 enrolled international students for the fall term. About 600 international students will remain overseas and take courses online.
“UTA has been working with all of our international students
on a case-by-case basis to make sure they have access to the classes they need.
We’re doing all we can to minimize the impact of the pandemic, evolving federal
guidelines and travel restrictions so that our international students can
continue to pursue their degrees. For the first time, we are offering online
courses for international students who choose to remain in their home countries
for the fall term,” the university said in a statement. “As one of the nation’s
most diverse campuses, UTA benefits in countless ways – socially, culturally
and intellectually – from our international students. We are committed to
ensuring they continue on their paths toward academic success.”