Travel restrictions, other obstacles strand international students on campus

Sara Mitrakovic of Slovenia is impacted by travel restrictions. / VN photo by SOPHIE TORCELLO



Many Detroit Mercy students have been moving their belongings out of the dormitories and returning home because of the coronavirus pandemic.

But that option doesn’t exist for many international students.

They are not so lucky.

Murui Tong and Haotian Zhou are international students from the same Anhui province of China.

“We are okay here because we did not go home for the winter break but we are concerned for our families in China,” said Tong.

Tong was set to graduate in May and is now considering enrolling in graduate school in the United States to maintain her visa status in the country.

“I had a ticket to go home on April 25 but I received an email a few days ago that the airline is not accepting passengers,” she said. “Now I have to start looking at other options.”

Tong and Zhou keep in regular contact with their families in China but say other classmates from China are extremely stressed about the situation.

 “I know that some of my classmates from China have bought masks and protective items to send to their families in China due to the shortages,” said Zhou.

President Donald Trump has closed the borders to any foreign nationals traveling from China, Europe, Iran and other nations, which affects many students still on campus.

The uncertainty of whether or not they will be allowed back into the United States to continue their education presents a big risk should they return home.

Detroit Titan basketball player Willy Isiani, who is from Georgia, a country bordering Russia, is taking the situation day by day.

But he finds it difficult to fill his time due to the closure of Calihan Hall.

 “All of my teammates and most of my friends have left campus and I am unable to work out anymore,” Isiani said. “The thing I am most disappointed about is the possibility of not being able to attend my sister’s wedding in August.”

Things have not changed a lot for Iris Thioux.

Her MBA classes were already online.

Her biggest decision now will be whether she decides to return home or not.

“I am definitely concerned about the university closing and whether or not I can still keep my internship,” said Thioux. “The first reaction from my parents was for me to come home as soon as I could.

“I want to go home but I am also worried about my family getting sick because France is highly affected by the virus right now,” said Thioux.

Sara Mitrakovic is in quite a unique situation.

Her home country Slovenia borders Italy.

Italy is being hit hard by the virus, and the entire country is in a full lock-down.

“It is very complicated for me to get home because of all of the borders closing around my country,” said Mitrakovic.

An architecture student, Mitrakovic is finding the transition to online classes challenging.

“I’m finding it hard to keep motivated because my everyday lifestyle has changed completely,” she said. “I realize that we can only wait and take precautions because it is hard to make any decisions when the situation is constantly changing.”

These international students – and many others on campus – may not know for awhile when they can return home.

Although the campus is officially closed, the university is accommodating international students who have no where else to go.