International students faced with uncertainty
March 18, 2020
The rapidly-spreading COVID-19 virus has put people on the edge of their seats across the world. As the virus spreads to the United States, much of life is now coming to a slow but complete standstill; establishments ranging from restaurants to universities are closing and encouraging people to stay in their own homes.
The University has been no exception, asking students to return home and continue their studies online for the remainder of the semester. However, the University has one of the largest international student populations in the country. These students come from countries around the world, and this new policy leaves them uncertain. Many are desperate to return to their homes but have few options to do so. With the almost hourly updates as to the virus’ progress, they are unsure what their future holds.
Roli Sharma, sophomore in LAS, is an international student from Thailand studying at the University. Her home country, as of March 15, reached a total of 114 COVID-19 cases. While Thailand has not reached stage 2 of the virus infectivity, the government did recently and suddenly invoke a suspension of visa-on-arrival status for 22 countries and territories, before revoking it less than 24 hours after issuing the initial order. With travel into and out of the country being so easily subject to change, Sharma’s father thought it best for her to stay with family within the U.S.
“Resources are going to run out eventually,” she said, “and if I’m going to be stuck in the U.S when that happens, campus isn’t exactly ideal. If I get stuck in transit, whether if they close a connecting airport or visa approval is withdrawn again, it’d be really bad for me.”
The University encourages students to return to their permanent residences after suspending face-to-face instruction for the rest of the spring semester; however, the university keeps running, keeping residence halls, dining halls and other facilities open to accommodate students with nowhere to go. While the University remains functional, many students are unclear about their current and upcoming internships.
Siddharth Kandimalla, sophomore in Engineering who recently secured an internship at AGCO at Research Park, said he was really looking forward to the internship ever since he started in the spring and was hoping to land a summer opportunity if he did well over the spring semester. While his work hasn’t come to a full halt, it just transitioned to a work-from-home setting, though he can’t return home to his home country, India.
“I wanted to go home when I first heard that we were being encouraged to go back home, but I can’t take my company laptop across seas to continue my internship,” he said. “I figured that Champaign is pretty secluded in its own way and international travel probably increased my chances of getting infected, so I’m just staying in my apartment.”
Students all over campus are returning or have already returned to their permanent residences, desperate to get ahead of the curve. Many are fearful of getting infected or getting caught in the misfire of a quarantine.
Oishee Nandy, sophomore in Engineering, has already reached her home country.
“I’m inherently a bit paranoid about this whole thing,” Nandy said. “There’s this graph I saw on the internet that shows how the number of infected in the U.S mimics one of Italy, so I decided it was probably better to leave. Worst case scenario, I come back after in-person classes restart.”