International Students Face Uncertain Future as the Pandemic Surges, U Hopes to Address Individual Situations

International Students Face Uncertain Future as the Pandemic Surges, U Hopes to Address Individual Situations



On July 6, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security announced international students on an F-1 visa must be enrolled in at least one in-person three-credit class in the fall in order to remain in the states for the semester. If not they will be forced to return to their home country. 

An F-1 visa is documentation given to international students to allow them to study in the US, it typically lasts as long as the student is enrolled in an accredited US school. Students who hold green cards will not be affected by this decision. 

This announcement comes after the University of Utah sent out their plans for fall, with a hybrid in-person and online class schedule. The schedule, however, is consistently evolving as the semester approaches, with some classes previously scheduled in-person going online and other classes being canceled altogether. 

The U has around 3,000 international students and said in a statement released on July 7, they “are a critical part of the University of Utah community, expanding the academic experience in our classrooms and laboratories for all students, faculty and staff.”

In the statement, the U advised international students who have received an F-1 visa to enroll in the required in-person class and students who have yet to receive a visa to consider taking online classes from their home country in the fall. 

The International Student and Scholar Services office has created a page with guidance for F-1 students. The page states if the U goes online, even mid-semester, international students will be required to return home. 

Communications Director Christopher Nelson said it is impossible to predict right now if the U will have to go online mid-semester. 

The goal is to provide as many in-person learning experiences for our students as possible fall semester but making sure we do so safely and in accordance with whatever guidance or direction we receive from state public health officials,” Nelson said in an email.

While international students are required to take at least one in-person or hybrid class this coming semester, some international students have had trouble finding one that fits their needs.

“Unfortunately, a lot of in-person classes are already full, or they’re not available. And one of my classes is already canceled, and that class is an in-person class, so that definitely impacts me a lot,” said Jieyu Wang, an international student from Taiwan studying biology as a second-year pre-pharmacy student. 

In addition to concerns about how the situation will play out, Wang also said it made her feel isolated from her classmates. 

“As an international student, even though we pay a lot of money for our tuition, we want it to feel like we are also doing the same thing as the Native students because we’re getting the same degree, we’re taking the same classes, and because we’re paying a lot of money, we want to make sure that we only take certain classes to meet our requirements,” Wang said.

International students may not be able to fit another class into their schedule, especially if they are just trying to reach graduation requirements and not add to their tuition cost.

“For me, for example, I only take maybe 12 to 14 credits to meet my graduate requirements. But if I needed to take another extra class I will probably have to pay another $2,000 in my tuition. And that can be a stressful thing for some international students,” Wang said.

International students tend to apply for an internship for one of their years in the states so they can experience what it is like to work in the United States. Because it is Wang’s second and final year at the U, she is worried that if she is sent back to Taiwan, she will not be able to have the internship experience she was planning on.

“If I really need to go back next semester, that means I don’t have any chance to do an internship anymore. And that’s not what we wanted, because we came to America, we wanted to have the experience doing school and also have the experience to do an internship in another country. So if we don’t have that opportunity anymore, then that pretty much makes our work all gone,” Wang said.

Wang is worried that if the U were to create an in-person class just for international students, international students would continue to feel separated from the rest of the student body.

“I hope that people can really understand how international students feel. We don’t mind that we have to take in-person classes or we have to pay a lot more money, but we care about how people look at us, it’s not just because we’re from different countries, but we wanted to do the same thing as you guys,” Wang said. 

Harvard University and Massachusetts Institute of Technology sued the Trump administration on July 8 over the decision made, and for many international students their future and education remain up in the air.

“Students can contact ISSS as each situation may be unique depending on where they are coming from and we will do everything we can to help them and find resources or alternate solutions that best suit their situation,” said Christina Strain from the ISSS office in an email. 

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