International students stuck between border lines as coronavirus affects school, travel

The International Friends Program at FAU helps international students with an easy transition in the United States.

With+FAU+classes+transitioning+fully+online+through+the+end+of+summer%2C+international+students+question+if+the+fall+term+is+also+in+doubt.+Illustration+by+Israel+Fontura.+

With FAU classes transitioning fully online through the end of summer, international students question if the fall term is also in doubt. Illustration by Israel Fontura.

Regina Holloway, Staff Writer

FAU made the decision to keep their students home on Mar. 12, banking on the majority of their population being away until at least the end of summer

Though surprised by the swift change in severity over the coronavirus, the original news to leave had many students able to pack their cars and book tickets to head back to their families, albeit glumly. However, international students were stuck scrambling with every passing hour, a group that can’t run to the comfort of their family when our most recent pandemic looms over the globe.

 There are over 900 international students at Florida Atlantic University as of the last fall semester. Over 200 of those students have been enrolled in the International Friends Program, which brings new students from 107 different countries together to find solace in the massive culture shock that is the U.S.. President Nhi Truong spoke about the resources the program offers to students, and the opportunities that seem never ending to our freshmen that feel the most out of depth.

 “Since becoming a program in the International Services Office, there are over 200 members in IFP,” Truong said. Every semester we recruit new members, because it’s a program to help new international students. Last semester we had about 17 pairs of new members, and this semester we have about 16.”

 By pairs, she means international students old and new, coming together to help one another during the biggest transition of their lives. As a graduate student now, Truong can’t recommend the program enough for new international students. 

Being an entry college level student in Missouri, Truong felt incredibly isolated in a country that was so different from Vietnam. The IFP makes sure international students are never alone and gives them a chance to inquire about other cultures, as opposed to being stuck with answering all the questions. 

 “In the application there are some questions where they can share who they want to match with. Like, if I am interested in studying Spanish, I could match with someone who speaks Spanish, or students with even no interests can match with anyone new. The application takes five minutes, everyone should try.”

 Freshman Chaela Wooding says she found the IFP through FAU’s Center for Global Engagement, which specializes in showing new international students like her the many opportunities FAU provides to make them feel right at home.

 “Even though I don’t go to many meetings, I have met a few friends through it,” Wooding said. 

Truong explained that the IFP, though eager in their pursuit of assimilation, can empathize with the new students that also need time to explore the university themselves. The complexity of moving across the country is not treated lightly by International Services, so students like Wooding never feel pressured into attending any more meetings than they want to and can set their own pace.

Even with everything that FAU has to offer, there will always be some setbacks that international students have to navigate themselves. Junior John Garaycoa Castro says that the hard part of being a student in the states is that, “there are no parents or family here to guide me. So, I have to experience everything on my own.”

 Freshman Aye Khine found that for her, “homesickness and learning style are the biggest obstacles [for her]. Searching for the cultural food is also a challenge.” 

Now, with the ever-growing devastation that the coronavirus has inflicted, FAU has made many adjustments, including the decisions to transition their summer classes online, keep all of their employees at home, and conduct graduation virtually for their seniors. 

The effects of COVID-19 have reached across the nation, and FAU’s international students have been affected as well. Yet, for students such as Castro, they continue to study in America with the hope of representing a home they can’t touch.

Being an international student motivates me more because I feel I am representing my country.”

Regina Holloway is a staff writer for the University Press. For information regarding this or other stories, email her at [email protected]