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What It’s Like To Be An International Student In A Pandemic

A glass door with the words “office of international students and scholars” printed across the exterior.
María Palma
Noticiero Móvil
Peering into the Office of International Students and Scholars at the University of Nevada, Reno on April 15.

This story was originally published by our media partner Noticiero Móvil on April 29, 2021.

Lee en español.

Before the pandemic, the United States was welcoming more than a million international students each year. However, the pandemic, student visa delays and a difficult political environment have caused a historic decline nationally.

Noticiero Móvil’s María Palma spoke with several international students from the University of Nevada, Reno 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.

“It’s been that reports have shown that we have less students that are coming to the U.S., especially with a lot of schools deciding to just do fully online [learning], unlike hybrid like we’re doing,” 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.

“We’ve had issues with our Iranian students getting their visas because they usually have to go to a different country to be able to get it, or just students who didn’t want to come because they felt safer being at home instead of traveling across the country to come to an empty campus, so it’s taken away that experience also of being a university student and having other students on campus, having events you can attend. So, that’s changed quite a bit, too,” said Ross.

A man poses next to an N shaped blue structure.
Credit Courtesy of Arsam Taslimi.
Student Arsam Taslimi poses with the N sign, a representative symbol of the University of Nevada, Reno.

One student that has been affected is Arsam Taslimi, a first-year Ph.D. student in earthquake and structural engineering from Gorgan, Iran.

“I first received my application to start my Ph.D. in August 2020, but because of the pandemic, I couldn’t come to [the] U.S. [at] that time. I couldn’t receive my visa, so I had to defer my program start date to January 2021, so I nearly missed one semester,” expressed Taslimi.

For Roxana Morton, moving to the U.S. was not what she expected. She is a first-year Ph.D. student in chemical engineering from Ensenada, Mexico.

“Connecting to people and meeting friends, it has just been very difficult due to the pandemic, and all these changes and difficult times, of course, took a toll on me and caused me anxiety,” Morton said.

A woman poses in front of an N shaped blue structure.
Credit Courtesy of Roxana Morton.
Roxana Morton poses with the N sign as well.

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.

“In order to keep myself emotionally and physically healthy, I work out every day. I do 10 minutes of yoga every day. I try to keep in touch with friends, although we cannot come together,” said Sevindik.

The Office of International Students and Scholars continues to provide support for their students with a virtual front desk, events on Zoom and game nights.

“So, we have monthly Virtual Success Pizza because that is with counselors, the two counselors from counseling services, so we invite students to come in there and just share what they’ve been going through or, if they don’t have to share, they could listen. [We] encourage them to get out, put on a mask, get out and walk, do something so [they’re] not just stuck at home,” said Ross.

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.

This story was produced by María Palma for Noticiero Móvil in partnership with KUNR Public Radio.

Maria joined KUNR Public Radio in December 2022 as a staff reporter. She is interested in stories about underserved communities, immigration, arts and culture, entertainment, education and health.
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