Before the pandemic, the United States was welcoming more than a million international students each year. However, the pandemic along with an increase in the number of student visa delays, and a difficult political environment has caused a historic decline nationally.
Noticiero Móvil’s María Palma spoke with several international students from the University of Nevada, Reno (UNR) to learn more about what they’ve been through this past year.
At UNR, Adilia Ross is well aware of the issues that international students are facing. She is the assistant director of the Office of International Students and Scholars (OISS).
“Reports have shown that fewer students are coming to the U.S., especially because many of the higher education institutions opted for a remote mode of learning,” said Ross.
Ross also mentioned that international student enrollment decreased almost 4 percent at UNR from last Fall to this Spring. However, if we look at the national data, the numbers are much higher: by Fall of 2020, new international student enrollment decreased by 43 percent in the entire country. Many factors are to blame.
“Many embassies closed, caused delays or denied visas, mainly to students from Iran, India, and China. Also, some students didn’t want to come because they felt safer at home rather than traveling to come to an empty campus. So you’ve also lost the experience of being a college student and having other people on campus, having events to attend. All of that has changed quite a bit,” she continued.
One student that has been affected is Arsam Taslimi, a first-year Ph.D. student in earthquake and structural engineering from Gorgan, Iran.
“When I applied to start my Ph.D. in August 2020, due to the pandemic, I could not receive my visa so I had to postpone the start date of my program to January 2021. I nearly lost a semester,” expressed Taslimi.
For Roxana Morton, moving to the U.S. was not how she expected. She is a first-year Ph.D. student in chemical engineering from Ensenada, Mexico.
“It has been difficult to make friends or even meet people. These things have taken their toll on me; caused me anxiety. I was incredibly sad for the first few months,” she said.
Given the challenges of this past year, many of these students are prioritizing their mental health and staying active. One of them is Irem Sevindik, a second-year Ph.D. student in economics from Ankara, Turkey. Every day, she does ten minutes of yoga, keeps in touch with friends virtually, and often uses UNR counseling services
The Office of International Students and Scholars continues to provide support to their students, with a virtual front desk, events on Zoom and game nights.
Ross also mentioned that every month, they host virtual meetings for international students to meet and make friends. One example is Virtual Success Pizza, an event through which students have access to counselors and UNR resources.
Looking ahead to future semesters, Taslimi, Morton and Sevindik hope pandemic conditions continue to improve so they can be on campus, make friends and explore Reno.