Op-Ed: Will Intel Students Be Able to Get Their Visas?

By Sofia Netto || Copy Editor

Photo courtesy of Medellin Advisor.

More than one year ago, the class of 2024 received their decisions from Franklin & Marshall College. For those accepted, it was time to celebrate and dream about the place they would spend the next four years. However, that was a few days after a global pandemic had been declared. Nothing was certain but we all hoped for the best. International students dreamed of going to the United States in August and families started to prepare themselves for the long journey their kids would go through. Going to another part of the world to study, perhaps in your second language, with no one you are familiar with, is hard. But even harder was to see that dream fade away with time. When Franklin & Marshall announced its intentions to open the campus in 2020, I thought that everything would be okay: I would get my Visa, board a plane and be in the United States. Of course, I was worried about the risks. But it was going to be all worth it, because, after all, studying abroad had been my dream for many years.

But I was wrong. 

Everything turned out to be different — I did not go to the United States; instead, I ended up in Bath, United Kingdom. I went abroad but to a different country and life. Many international students choose to either go to Bath, study at home, start college in 2021 or go to Shanghai or Beijing (a choice only for Chinese students because of the restrictions). Going to the US was out of the question at the time. The Office of International Students did what they could to ensure we at least had the option to start our college life in another country, instead of learning online for months while our fellow classmates enjoyed life in Pennsylvania. Of course, many of us chose to stay at home on account of many factors. Either way, that was not how I thought my life would be when starting college. 

Although going to Bath ended up being the perfect way for me to start my fall semester, I could not stop myself from wondering if the next fall would be different. Will I be at Franklin & Marshall meeting my friends and professors in person? Will I finally be in a classroom instead of in front of a computer? While I wish my answer was “yes” to all of these questions, it is more likely to be “no, I will not”.

Don’t get me wrong, when I came back home from Bath, I was sure I would be going to the United States. But, in a certain way, I was living in a fairy tale, thinking that everything would be alright when I came back. Instead of finding my own country, Brazil, in a better situation I found out everything was worse. More people were getting sick, the country was embedded in a health crisis and no one seemed to care. In Bath, the situation was not that great, but at least I could go out for small walks without worrying too much. In Brazil, the first time I dared to go out, I saw flocks of people without masks; I wondered if I was in a parallel universe in which COVID no longer existed. It felt crazy. But you might be asking, how does this all even relate to studying in the United States?

To start with, Brazil is still under a travel ban, along with a list of other countries. That means that those who spent the last fourteen days in Brazil cannot enter the United States, which also means that in order to go to F&M, I would need to spend two weeks in another country before entering the US. Because of the travel ban, there is also a reason for the consulates and embassies not open because if you cannot enter the country, why would you need a Visa? The only way to get one currently is through an emergency appointment and, even though international students are listed as one of the reasons to require one, mine was not approved. Another reason for consulates and embassies not to open is the number of cases and deaths in Brazil, which puts the security of employees into question. Therefore, when I arrived back from Bath and saw how bad the situation in Brazil was, the dream of going to the United States started to slowly fade away…

So, will international students finally be able to come to Franklin & Marshall, as sophomores, for the first time? Maybe. Each country has its own legislation and in some, the American consulates and embassies are open and functioning regularly for Visas like F-1 (the one needed for students). However, for a large number of students, that question is still something Franklin & Marshall College, as well as other higher education facilities, or the US government are unable to answer. And some universities, like Stanford, have declared a policy that requires everyone that is coming back to their campuses to be fully vaccinated. Now, while that ensures a level of security for students and employees, it also means that international students might not be able to come back, as vaccinations in many countries are going at a slow pace, with younger people possibly awaiting vaccination until 2022. International students do not need anything else prohibiting them from studying in-person like many domestic students are already able to do. The “American dream” keeps being destroyed, in some cases, by America itself.

For many of us, international students, it is stressful to not know when we will be able to enjoy studying in the United States, especially when we already have finals and other issues on our minds. And the worse thing is that we cannot do much to solve this problem and neither can F&M. The only thing we can all do is hope for a better future while making plans we know we’ll probably have to change.

To my fellow international students, don’t lose hope, we are in this together! And, because I understand how difficult this period is for us, feel free to share with me your concerns or anything else on your mind. We need to support each other.

First-year Sofia Netto is a copy editor. Her email is ssilvade@fandm.edu.

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