Amid COVID-19 many International Students remain on campus

Photo Courtesy of Mira Lerner

By Mira Lerner || Copy Editor

As F&M asked all students residing in on-campus housing to leave over the last two weeks, few students have been allowed to stay. Predictably, much of the remaining population is made up of international students. Being abroad amidst a global pandemic presents unique challenges and stressors but also appears to offer an advantage right now in terms of campus housing.

Senior Thanh Nguyen, who is from Vietnam, has opted to stay in his College Row apartment until his lease ends in May. Having the option to remain in his apartment has been a huge relief for Thanh. Now he doesn’t have to rely on friends to host him. He recognizes that F&M is handling the situation generally pretty well compared to other schools; “At least for international students, they are doing a pretty good job letting everybody stay.” Anastasiia Grigoreva, another international senior choosing to remain in her College Row apartment, also felt that international students were in a good position right now, mainly due to the “remarkable” Office of International Programs. “They have been rocking it,” she said, “They have ensured us that we have a right to stay on campus and they will help in any way they can, for summer too.” 

Both students, however, expressed concern for domestic students. “I’m not sure how it is for domestic students. Are students who lived on campus housing getting refunded?” Thanh wondered. Anastasiia recounted what happened to one of her friends who was made to leave her “on campus” West James apartment while others around her were allowed to remain in their “off campus” designated apartments. “Housing is being handled poorly because it shows that the concern is not stopping the spread of the virus, but ensuring that the school is protected by removing everyone from ‘on campus’ locations,” Anastasiia said. To emphasize her point, she added that the College has not done anything to prohibit people in off campus housing coming back to move out or prevent them from hosting parties.

Anastasiia plans on staying in her apartment for as long as possible because she doesn’t have anywhere else to go. Although she has set plans to attend graduate school next fall, she doesn’t want to risk leaving the country. The U.S. only issues visas to Russians for one year periods and with all of the U.S. visa centers around the world closed, if she goes home there is a significant chance she won’t be able to renew her visa in time to re-enter the U.S. in August. This restriction is contributing to her dominant source of stress right now: that she is not going to see her family until next summer. Anastasiia was really looking forward to seeing her grandparents this summer and worries that Coronavirus could inhibit her ever seeing them again. 

Thanh luckily renewed his visa over winter break when he went home to Vietnam, so he has a full year in which he can leave and return. However, he probably won’t for a while. “It costs too much to go home,” he said. Thanh is thankful to have the option of remaining on campus, but his parents back in Vietnam are very concerned. He said that “they are pretty worried about me being here because of the U.S. in general, not F&M. They don’t feel like the government is dealing with it super well.” His mom texts him every day to check up. Ultimately, though, he said she understands why he needs to be here.

As a senior, another reason Thanh chose to stay is to apply for jobs in the U.S. Finding work is his main cause of stress at the moment. The escalating events of the last two weeks have not changed his future plans at all, but he is worried about how COVID-19 is affecting the economy and disrupting hiring processes. 

On top of the already difficult task of attending college as international students, Thanh, Anastasiia, and countless others are now reckoning with multiple uncertainties caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. For now, their future plans remain unchanged, but nothing feels secure. Although the school has not made any efforts to remove students from off-campus housing options, such as College Row apartments, Thanh and Anastasiia both feel very fortunate to be able to remain- one less uncertainty to grapple with. 

Senior Mira Lerner is a Copy Editor. Her email is mlerner@fandm.edu.

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