International studies program outlook is hopeful

Alexis Stalker

COVID-19 has affected countries all across the world. Some NMU international students were put in a tight position last spring as they had to make the decision to go back to their home country or stay in the USA. International travel restrictions remain in place as the Fall 2020 semester starts up and there are zero study abroad programs in effect. However, there are currently 85 international students from at least 35 different countries enrolled at NMU this semester, according to Diana Vreeland, director of International Programs. 

On July 22, the visa offices re-opened as travel restrictions were loosened and students rushed to get their visas and papers for studying, starting a waiting game for many. While a majority of those students were enrolled previously, others are new.

“University partners will pave the way for students,” Vreeland said. “They’ll say it might not be a good idea to send a student there if it doesn’t seem safe.” 

Typically, immigration laws require international students to attend classes face-to-face in order to be allowed to stay in the country during their studies. However, there have been exceptions this year as most classes are now expected to be online. With the last of NMU students trickling in from all over, the question Vreeland asks is what happens next? 

“That’s the question for all universities,” Vreeland said. “Students are becoming more comfortable online and more careful. We already have lots of winter applications and even for next Fall. It’s hopeful, very hopeful.”

NMU school associated trips abroad have been canceled as well. Junior history major Jordan Boylen, was on track to travel to Zhuhai, China to conduct an independent internship from early May to late August. Upon cancelation, Boylen said she was unphased and made plans to enroll in a study abroad program that would take her to Seoul, South Korea starting late August. With the extra fees for quarantine, Boylen couldn’t justify spending her funds for the mandatory two weeks when it could be used toward her education.

Boylen decided to get on an accelerated course of study that put her on track to graduate Fall 2021, with a major in history and a minor in Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages, or, TESOL. With this course of action, there is no other chance for her to study abroad before graduation. 

“I was really let down when I found out I wouldn’t be able to fulfill my dream of studying abroad,” Boylen said. “I was looking forward to catching up with some friends I made that studied abroad here, and also to widen my cultural knowledge and worldview.”

Previously, Boylen was involved in the All Nations Club that was formed by the International Student Organization where everyone was welcome to talk about their experiences and cultures. There, she has met friends including Chanmi Yu from South Korea. Yu had to return to her country but her travel plans were delayed as she tried to obtain a plane ticket for a safe trip home.