international students

International University of Georgia students like Pankti Rana, Malus Li and Emily Blecher (left to right) are unsure of their fall plans due to uncertainty caused by the coronavirus. (Photos/Gabriella Audi, Malus Li and Caroline Barnes)

Emily Blecher returned to her home in Shdema, Israel, in March on the second to last plane before Israel started to cancel flights.

Blecher, a rising sophomore sport management major, said she heard about many Israelis getting stuck all around the world. Due to possible online classes and visa issues, Blecher is unsure about her plans for this fall.

Some international students at the University of Georgia like Blecher are facing uncertainty about their fall plans because of the coronavirus. Living in another country means extra planning when it comes to returning to school — international students have to plan around travel restrictions and must have a backup plan in case students are sent home from campus like in the spring.

In fall 2019, UGA had 2,003 enrolled international students, according to the 2019 UGA Fact Book.

Most of Europe is under an “exercise increased caution” advisory and most of Asia and the Middle East are under “exercise increased caution” and “do not travel” advisories, according to the U.S. Department of State’s website. If travel advisories are still in place in the fall, some students who went to their home countries may not be able to return to Athens.

Students are also unsure if their classes will be in-person or online. The University System of Georgia is currently planning for a return to in-person instruction in August, but plans are subject to change depending on the public health situation.

Once Blecher got back home, she had to self-quarantine for 14 days, during which Israel was under a lockdown. There was no work or school and everyone had to stay home, Blecher said.

Blecher is also on the equestrian team and will have to take this into consideration when deciding to come back in the fall. If classes are online, Blecher said she does not think she will go back to Athens.

“It kind of feels like we might not know anything until August,” Blecher said. “That’s not enough time to decide whether we, international students, can come or not.”

Other students, like Malus Li, had a later return home and had to self-quarantine for 28 days.

Li, a rising sophomore psychology major from Xi’an, China in the Shaanxi province, left Athens on May 7. When Li returned to China, she had to self-quarantine in a hotel for 14 days before going home, where she self-quarantined for another 14 days.

Li plans to return to campus in the fall because she does not want to spend a semester or year without taking classes. She hopes to graduate early.

“I think it’s hard for international students to travel or do school next fall,” Li said. “Some of us even stayed in the U.S. just to make sure that if school is open in the fall we can be back for sure.”

Pankti Rana, a rising senior biology major from Surat, India, is one of the international students who stayed in the U.S. She left Athens when UGA closed campus after spring break in March.

Rana has been staying with her aunt in Auburn, Alabama, so she did not face any travel or visa issues. Rana said she plans to return to Athens in the fall for classes.

Rana has other international friends who were stuck in India or stuck in the U.S. unable to return to India, which went under a nationwide lockdown starting March 24 and eased restrictions on June 8, according to The Guardian.

“Being an international student, I greatly empathize with other students who are either stuck in the U.S. or in their own countries, as their education is being greatly affected,” Rana said.

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