North Texas Daily

International students face additional challenges due to the pandemic

International students face additional challenges due to the pandemic

International students face additional challenges due to the pandemic
March 26
10:00 2021

International students encounter additional challenges during the pandemic, such as navigating immigration requirements, finding stable housing and being unable to visit family, all compounded by the difficulty of being a college student.

Since the start of the pandemic, international students were required to comply with additional regulations. Visas held by international students are given by the federal government and require international students to take on-campus classes. This has become complicated by the transition of many in-person classes to an online format.

Lauren Jacobsen-Bridges, Director of International Student and Scholar Services, said the university gains an allowance from the federal government each semester to give international students the ability to take more online classes.

“And so because of [those changes], in addition to all of the stressors of the pandemic that anyone else would go through, our international students are also experiencing additional stressors with the constant change in immigration updates in response to COVID,” Jacobsen-Bridges said.

Requirements for the university’s 2,951 currently-enrolled international students differ depending on when they entered the U.S. Those who arrived before March 2020 are allowed to take all of their classes online, while those who arrived after that time must take at least one class in person. The university plans to return to a traditional semester with more in-person courses in fall 2021.

“Right now, it’s not one rule for everyone, it’s two different rules, which is quite complicated,” Jacobsen-Bridges said, “[…] the stress has come up with just the extra complications, other than being a student, surviving a pandemic, there’s also this extra thing to always kind of be aware of and think about.”

Computer Engineering senior Srijan Singh is an international student from Nepal.

“I didn’t know what was going on back home,” Singh said in a message. “I didn’t know what was going to happen over here. […] The cancelation of face-to-face class was fine at first. But if you ask me, I would’ve taken a break until they were back. It doesn’t feel like the online study is worth the money I’m paying.”

Vanessa Bautista, an international student from Mexico studying Interdisciplinary Studies at the College of Education, has been unable to return home for breaks, which left her unsure of where she would stay.

“I have lived in seven different places during the COVID-19 pandemic, including four different cities,” Bautista said in an email to the North Texas Daily. “[…] Moving in and out from one place to another has been physically and mentally exhausting.”

Despite these challenges, Bautista is glad she made the decision to study at UNT.

“If someone had told me before that I would study my degree in the U.S. during a global pandemic that would impact life as we knew it, I wouldn’t have changed a single thing I have done,” she said. “I would have still come to UNT with the same positive attitude I’ve kept during the past two years. With or without COVID, coming to study here has been the best decision I have taken in my life.”

International students are currently eligible to receive the COVID-19 vaccine, as there are no requirements for residency, citizenship or a social security number in Texas.

Featured Image: The Hurley Administration Building stands at the end of the library mall on Sept. 28, 2020. Image by John Anderson

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