International Students Stranded by Coronavirus/by Kienna Van Dellen

Many universities across the country shut down and sent their students home this past March due to the coronavirus outbreak. Mississippi College students got sent home to resume the semester online. Many returned home confused and frustrated. Some became trapped. Many international students across the globe suffered from the closure of borders, making it impossible to return home. They were left in a foreign country under lockdown to try to find a home for the summer. On top of the fear of the unknown, many students had financial issues, as their visas made it impossible for them to work off-campus. 

International students studying in the U.S. are typically required by law to live within the city of their university and take the full course load of 12 credit hours to ensure that they stay within their state of study. Otherwise, their nonimmigrant student status, which allows them to study in the country, could be revoked, according to the Department of Homeland Security.  

So how is Mississippi College helping foreign students still abroad? “MC grants ‘Remote Status’ to our international students so they can take online courses where they are in their respective countries,” said Mei-Chi Piletz, Office of Global Education Director. “MC also offers reduced tuition to these international students who cannot come back to the States to study.” The Global Education Office is working hard this fall to meet and connect with students through Zoom orientations and meetings. They are also sending out more emails and texts and connecting on social media now more than ever before.

The pandemic has caused a significant emotional toll on families through separation and fear for the future. “I haven’t seen my family in more than two years and was disappointed when I heard the news of the border closures,” said Saima Arif, a junior from Dhaka, Bangladesh. “My parents had been planning to bring me home, and they were ready to buy the tickets, but our plans were disrupted with the news of COVID-19.” Not only were the borders shut down to her home country, but multiple devastating hurricanes struck Bangladesh this summer. Cyclonic Storm Amphan was a powerful and deadly tropical cyclone that tore through eastern India this past May. It made landfall near the border of her home in Bangladesh, where India and Bangladesh meet, according to the NASA Earth Observatory. The country flooded, and the pandemic made evacuations much more difficult. 

Students who found housing where they could are grateful to be back on campus — a place that feels familiar. “Because of the border closures, I decided to stay in the States instead of going back home for summer,” said Ngoc Pham, an accounting student from Vietnam. “I’m very excited to be back on campus. At first, I was also worried. But after being here, it gets better when I see that we are all working through it together.”

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