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COVID-19 from an International Student Perspective


Temple’s international student population faces unexpected challenges as classes are moved online and campus services cut back due to the COVID-19 global pandemic.

The virus, which has hit nearly 150,000 globally and killed over 5,000 as of March 14, first affected Temple students in late February when classes for Temple Rome and Temple Japan were ordered online for two weeks, a move extended through the 27th. On March 12, all classes were moved online on Main Campus.

The closure of in-person classes has caused many international students to want to return home, however major obstacles exist for those wishing to do so.

President Donald Trump ordered travel bans between the U.S. and most European countries, as well as China, on short notice. Chinese students make up approximately 42.6% of Temple international students or about 1,500 students, and some students only recently returned from Europe following spring break. An American Temple student visiting Spain later tested positive on U.S. soil.

Students in countries outside the banned areas are scrambling to ensure they are also not stranded.

Vivian Falco, a freshman in the college of liberal arts from Brazil, is trying to change her flight to get home this week.

“I had already bought my ticket to May because tickets to Brazil are really expensive. I’m trying to change it this week,” she said. They are not making us go out of the dorms, staying, it’s an option but not the best option for you.”

Both the university and the government are making precautions to ensure international students’ lives are not totally upended.

International students have been permitted to stay in their dorms during the rest of the semester. The library and the dining halls are set to continue operating past March 21st with limited hours, although other services including the Fitness Center are not available.

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, which normally permit just one online course to count towards being enrolled as a full-time student for visa purposes, changed rules to allow more than one in light of the virus.

But the shift to online classes can be challenging for students who return home to countries where time zones are opposite those of the U.S.

“We have a really big population of South Korean and Chinese students. San Paulo’s time zone is only one hour forward but some people would have to deal with crazy distances, Falaco said. “I don’t know what’s worse- staying here or having to readjust all your classes due to time zones“

Wenting Ao, a senior journalism major from China, said that the time differences wouldn’t work for her, and any flight would likely be expensive.

She said she began feeling the impact of the coronavirus last month, when the focus of the virus was in China.

“I purchased masks and tried to ship them to my parents. But USPS has closed the post to China. For the first couple weeks at the beginning of February, I was a bit concerned about my parents’ health.The first time I thought this would affect me is when more cases happened in the U.S. I hope none of my friends get infected,” she said. “I’m not able to go home and that’s why I’m kind of upset.”