Global City

The reality and concerns of international students returning for the Fall semester

Many international students feel unsure about the potential risks on the trip returning to the U.S. for the Fall semester.

With the rise of vaccine distribution and USC’s statement of reopening the campus for the Fall semester, many international students are left with the question of whether or not to return to Los Angeles in August. They will have to create their own travel plans to come to USC whether that be quarantining to a third country, finding a place around campus to quarantine, or figuring out if coming back is a reality for them.

International travel during the pandemic is still full of uncertainty. Many Presidential proclamations have suspended and limited entry into the United States. According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, people from countries with travel restriction must complete a 14-day quarantine period to enter the U.S. In addition, the California Department of Public Health requires travelers from other states or countries to self-quarantine for 10 days.

Many of the international students are excited but nervous to travel to Los Angeles for the upcoming school year. Amina Elhamawy, a sophomore majoring in psychology at USC Dornsife, comes from Egypt. She said taking remote classes for a year has deprived her of the opportunities to socialize with friends in person, so she would love to return to campus to mingle with friends.

“I’m very excited to come to Los Angeles next year. I’ve been waiting to come back for over a year now, so coming back and seeing all the friends I made during freshman year is really exciting,” Elhamawy said.

Though excited, some students may still feel strongly anxious about international travel during the pandemic. Gigi Brito, a junior majoring in architecture at USC School of Architecture, is from Brazil. Brito fears about having to come to the U.S. alone without her parents, whose Visas expired during the pandemic, because she feels insecure about potential risks on the trip.

“[I’m] scared because with COVID, my parents do not have their Visas for the United States, but I have an American passport. They wouldn’t be able to come if anything happened which is scary,” Brito said.

Carol Figueiredo, another junior majoring in public relations at USC Annenberg, is also from Brazil. She echoed Brito’s concerns, feeling “unsure because I would like to go back but there is still a travel ban and it depends on how campus life is.”

On the other side, there are also international students who feel confident about returning to the U.S. Julie Shi, a junior majoring in computer science at USC Viterbi from China, is “pretty confident because I will arrive earlier due to a summer internship and I already have the vaccine so I feel safe.”

In addition, many international students from countries with travel restrictions are planning to fly to a third country, do a 14-day quarantine and then fly to LA. For example, Elhamawy will travel from Cairo to London, then to LA. For such a long trip, many plan to travel with friends in order to ease stress along the way.

“I have two friends who go to USC, who are also from Egypt, so I am planning on traveling with them from here,” Elhamawy said.

Figueiredo plans to travel with some fellow Brazilian trojans, and though the trip is long with a 14-day quarantine in Mexico, she is not concerned about the trip.

Shi also plans on traveling with fellow Chinese trojans, with making a 14-day quarantine stop in Singapore. Though she respects the quarantine period, she feels that it would be safer to travel straight to LA since there are almost no cases in China.

When arriving in LA, these students will quarantine for 10 days as required by the California Department of Public Health. Elhamawy said “it would not be ideal, but I would not mind quarantining if it means getting to be back on campus.” Figeiredo dislikes the quarantine because “I would have to quarantine for 14 days in Mexico, and then 10 more days in LA, so it feels like another reason why I should not go.”

On the contrary, Shi thinks the 10-day quarantine is a good idea, but she “has not looked into the details of quarantine.”

The Office of International Services, which helps many international students especially during the COVID-19 pandemic, has been sending newsletters and hosting workshops for international students to give information on returning to campus for next semester. The OIS declined an interview with Annenberg Media.

As for motivation for coming back to campus, international students want to get back to a sense of normalcy. Elhamawy said “I want to go back for several reasons, a ‘normal’ education with in-person classes, exploring more of LA/California, seeing the friends I made in LA, seeing the tennis team, basically getting to properly finish my college experience.” Figueiredo feels that “I’m going into my senior year and it’s a once in a lifetime opportunity to study abroad so I want the full experience.”

Shi wants to come back for her internship but also “I think campus experience is a big reason for coming back because it would offer more to my overall college experience. I feel disconnected.”

Overall, many international students like national students want a sense of normalcy for next school year, which means being on campus with  a normal social life. Though international students want to return to campus and have a normal experience, many are uneasy about the trip back and how they would navigate the pandemic in the U.S. Stay positive, come back with an open and realistic mindset, and try to not overthink the trip.