Coronavirus panic prompts mass exodus of international students
March 20, 2020
Despite being cautioned not to travel out of America, many international students are getting their documents in order and are ready to move back to their home countries.
Dean of International Education Carola Smith advised earlier this month in an email that international students should not travel during spring break since it could jeopardize the status of their visas.
Despite this warning, the International Student Office has had two busy days as students lined up outside waiting to get their I-20 papers signed so they can return to their home countries.
“All my friends are going home, it just makes more sense to go home,” said Jenny Berglund, an international student from Sweden. “I don’t want to get stuck here over the summer and it also scares me that if an older relative gets sick, I can’t go home.”
On March 19, California Gov. Gavin Newson issued a “shelter in place” order to prevent the spread of the COVID-19 virus, ceasing social gathering and other non-essential services, in what has become an isolating decision for many.
“Now that all my friends are moving back, I can’t meet any new people,” Berglund said. “School is closed and going out is not even an option right now.”
The European Union made the decision to close its borders for 30 days to curb the transmission of the coronavirus, an order that led many students to book their flights home.
International students are required to have an approved travel signature from the institution they attend in case they want to return to the U.S.
Since the sudden campus closure, the International Student Office opened its doors Monday and Thursday for last-minute pick-ups and signatures for documents.
“I’m getting a travel signature just in case I need to go,” said Justin van Lier, an international student from The Netherlands standing in line waiting for a signature.
Usually, international students are not allowed to take more than one online class per 12 units, but now with all classes moved online, students have the freedom to continue their semester from home.
Many international students are afraid, and for some of them it is their first time being in the U.S. and their families want them to return home.
“I’m leaving because my family is concerned,” said Melis Kocadag, an international student from Turkey. “We don’t know for how long this is going to last.”
Some students who had the intention to stay for a year are now moving back for good, and are planning to continue their studies at home or in other English speaking countries like England.
“My parents are scared that America is going to be chaos,” said Pauline Brand, an international student from Germany. “My parents want me to come home,” she said. “I’m not happy, I don’t want to leave since I won’t be coming back.”
Despite being advised not to travel, insecurities about the future overpower the warnings and many students are returning to their home country.
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