Baker University is home to a number of international students. Most of them travel to the United States to study and play sports. I am an international student from the Netherlands and I will be enrolling in Baker University to obtain my bachelor’s degree in international studies. On campus I am part of the athletics team and a member of Zeta Chi Fraternity. The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has had a huge impact on my college experience in America.
I came home the summer of last year. As I neared my return to the United States, it became apparent that the United States did not allow non-residents of many countries to travel by air. Countries where travel was banned included the Schengen area, China, Iran and Brazil. It was very stressful not knowing if I would be able to return to the States and not sure that I will see my friends again. Nor did I want to take all of my lessons online from home.
I remember there was a lot of anger among the students End of summer against travel restrictions for international students. I was happy to see that there was a lot of support from the American students Opening borders to international students. As an international student, it is important for me to be on campus. I built a life here in Baldwin and as part of Zeta Chi Fraternity, I found a home away from home.
I was lucky enough to have students return from the Netherlands and other countries around mid-July. You’re back just in time to start cross-country training for this season. We felt relieved to be able to return to the United States
Some international students are unlucky. Many of them were unable to return to the United States to continue their education. They are currently taking online lessons from home to stay on track.
As most students experienced during the spring semester in 2020, participating in online classes from home is a challenge. It’s hard to stay motivated and internet connections are unstable. Your environment is more distracting and differences in time zones cause students to develop unusual procedures. It was strange to take exams or give presentations later in the evening.
I kept in touch with my friends via text messages and FaceTime / video chats. It was nice to spend more time with my family in summer and i also visited some of my dutch friends. But after a while I really missed my life in Baker. I wanted to go back. So when I heard there were travel restrictions, I felt a mixture of sadness and frustration. I was frustrated that international students are required to attend classes in person, if offered to do so, otherwise the US can terminate their student visa despite this requirement being withdrawn, I was still wary of all precautions when I returned to the US
International students suffer the disadvantage of not being able to return home on the weekends or whenever they want. They are restricted to visiting them during the summer and winter holidays, and aside from that, the only contact they have with their families is the default. COVID-19 imposed restrictions on international travel, forcing students to choose between visiting family or staying in the United States during their breaks. Visiting the family is risky because your return to the United States is not guaranteed.
I stayed in the US during the winter vacation, but it was hard not to spend Christmas with my family. My family and I struggled to separate. Even though I came home with my girlfriend and celebrated Christmas with them, it just wasn’t quite the same. I really miss my family when I see her family get together, share food, and have fun.
Aside from emotional hardships, the quarantine period can also pose financial challenges for international students. Most international students rely heavily on their scholarships to pay Baker. Not every international student can go to work any longer if they are placed in quarantine.
During the fall semester on campus, I had close contact with a person with COVID-19. The university asked me to go into quarantine, but the quarantine rooms on the campus were all full. I was lucky enough to have a quarantine place outside of campus. It was financially difficult to stay at The Lodge.
The precautions for COVID-19 in the United States were lighter than in many European countries. While states have a mandate to cover the face, there are fewer restrictions. Restaurants, hair salons, and so-called “non-essential professions” remained open.
In Europe, many countries have strict policies that restrict much of public life. The only places that provide the necessities of life are the places that are open to work. Especially during the growing waves of COVID-19 cases, protocols are much stricter.
In addition to these restrictions, there have been protracted closures. For example, the Netherlands has been in lockdown since December. My friends and family have been stuck at home since December and don’t have much to do. For my friends at home their lecture has been entirely online since March 2020.
I consider myself fortunate that the United States or Kansas has not been shut down. I am fortunate to have attended classes personally and to be able to eat outside and do other activities. Even training on the track seems a privilege, with most sports in the Netherlands subject to restrictions. I feel bad for my family and friends who are stuck at home.
The United States is vaccinating its citizens much faster than at home. I have already received my first dose of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine. My friends and family are jealous of their vaccination long before they are vaccinated.
Travel restrictions are currently in effect and I don’t know if I will be able to go home to see my family and friends in the near future. I hope the vaccine will allow me to go home during the summer vacation and come back to the United States without any problems.