Colleges help foreign students wary of traveling home
Art student Usman Anwar planned to spend this summer at home in Pakistan, visiting family and hiking with friends, but as he followed news about President Donald Trump’s orders on immigration, he decided it was too risky to leave the U.S.
“I had a feeling that if I would go back … I won’t be able to continue my studies here again,” he said.
Instead of visiting Lahore, the 22-year-old sophomore remained at Adelphi University on New York’s Long Island, which provided him with a free room and a campus marketing job — assistance that was key, he said, because his family hadn’t budgeted for the expense and visa restrictions limit off-campus work.
Adelphi is among a number of U.S. schools that offered housing, employment or other help to accommodate international students who stayed because of the concern and uncertainty surrounding U.S. requirements since the White House imposed a travel ban on six mainly Muslim countries.
A Supreme Court ruling on the travel ban exempted many travelers who have a “bona fide relationship” with an entity in the U.S., such as those admitted to universities. But educators who work with and advocate for international students say many remain concerned, even if they aren’t from the six listed countries — Iran, Libya, Syria, Somalia, Sudan and Yemen.
“Whether or not the fears that the students have are based in a concrete reality is almost not relevant,” said Perry Greene, Adelphi’s vice president for diversity and inclusion. “What’s relevant is the anxiety and fear that for our students was quite real.”
It’s unknown exactly how many international students decided to cancel travel plans and stay put this summer. Some schools say they learned of such students only through efforts to make assistance available.
Ohio University said it provided summer housing or dining accommodations for 18 students from the countries in Trump’s temporary travel ban rules, covering the costs through an existing endowment used to help students in need.
A handful of Lawrence University students from two countries not on the list, Pakistan and Jordan, decided to stay in the U.S., and the school in Appleton, Wisconsin, provided reception-type campus jobs for two of them, said Leah McSorley, the associate dean of students for international student services.
Many other schools pointed foreign students to support services and legal resources that could help with travel questions.
“With the uncertainty that’s there, I think people have been thinking twice about some of these decisions and wanting to make sure that they don’t put themselves in situations that could complicate their lives,” said Fanta Aw, the interim vice president of campus life at American University in Washington, D.C. The school surveyed international students in the spring and found that many planned to stay for summer, often for academic or professional reasons, but travel and visa concerns also were a consideration, Aw said.
Anwar said he reconsidered his summer plans after experiencing increased airport scrutiny and heightened anxiety among travelers when he returned to New York from a visit in January shortly before Trump’s inauguration. He’s still wary about traveling and wonders whether talking about his concerns might cause him trouble in the future.
Awaiting fall semester, he has spent his free time sketching or occasionally grabbing halal meals with friends at a Long Island restaurant.
He is getting homesick and wants to visit Pakistan during winter break — maybe, “if the situation changes.”