International Students Speak Out Amid Crisis

By Jhoana T. Merino-Martinez
Staff Writer

​The shift to remote classes affected the entire FDU community, yet the process is different for a student who is from a different country. 

These students have additional stresses, including housing and for different reasons. 

“I got worried immediately when classes began to be online because I thought that they would kick me out of my dorm,” Caterina Tatti, a junior english major said in an interview, via email. “Thankfully they gave me the option to stay.” 

Tatti is an international student from Italy, the nation that is currently the second hardest hit by the COVID-19 pandemic. Italy imposed a countrywide quarantine on March 9, so there was a period of time when Tatti had to stay on campus.

“My experience on campus was great, there were not many people around and it was very quiet, so it was easy to focus and do my work,” she said.

Despite this, Tatti said she is concerned how this situation will affect her grades. 

Maria Barbu, a freshman humanities major, doesn’t have any objections to online courses.

“I am adjusting very well to online courses. Of course, it’s not the same experience as being physically in class, but the courses go as usual and the Zoom app is incredibly useful, I really like it,” Barbu said via Snapchat. 

An international student from Romania, Barbu decided to spend spring break with her godparents in Canada but then found herself stuck there after travel border restrictions were put in place.

“FDU was very helpful, when I initially considered remaining on campus, they approved my request and emailed me all the important information,” Barbu said.

Tatti, on the other hand, still has unsolved concerns regarding housing. 

“I spoke to Housing regarding the fact that I was going to leave and if I could keep my stuff in my room,” Tatti said. “However, they told me that at the end of the semester I still had to move out, which is inconvenient especially because there’s no knowing if I will be allowed back in the U.S. before moving out day.

“I think that due to the circumstances that we find ourselves in, they could’ve been more understanding and try to come to a compromise, because it is an issue that every student has, and not just me,” Tatti said. 

International Student: ‘I Want to Be Safe’

Another student, Khaled Aldekhaila, an international student from Kuwait, and a freshman marketing major, is dissatisfied with the way Residence Life handled his case.

Khaled Aldekhaila
Photo provided by Khaled Aldekhail

Aldekhail is currently on diplomatic reserve by his country’s government, stationed in hotels in New York according to instructions from his embassy. 

During spring break before the shift to remote classes, and before the severity of the virus was public knowledge, he was asked by the director of Residence Life, Rebecca Venezuela, to rethink staying in the dorms

“Once I said that I’ll be staying outside the dorm until things get better, she told me that once I leave, I can’t come back and I would only have a few hours to move all my stuff,” Aldekhail said via Instagram direct message. “It was 11 a.m. and they gave me a time period until 5 p.m.”

When asked if he could still go back to his home country, Aldekhail said that he had to make a choice.

“I want to be safe, but it would affect my studying since it’s a 14-hour flight away, followed by 2 weeks of quarantine and adjusting to a 7-hour time difference,” Aldekhail said. “Not the best conditions.”

Among the students who were able to go back home is Shreya Gulia, a freshman sports administration major. She is a member of the FDU tennis team, and while on a sports trip to Florida, heard that FDU transitioned to online courses, but at first for only two weeks.

“I was quite happy, but the next day our tennis match got canceled,” Gulia said via Snapchat. “We left Florida the same day. Next, we got word that our season got canceled for the whole semester. I was shocked.”

After hearing that International airports are going to close, Gulia followed her intuition and booked overnight tickets, managing to return to India safely.

“At the time I wasn’t sure that all the courses were going to be online for the whole semester, but I knew it was going to be quite serious, and if I didn’t leave then, it would be tough for me to enter my own nation,” Gulia said. “Here [in India] there is a lockdown for 21 days. Let’s hope it ends soon.”

On top of the abrupt flight, Gulia has an additional concern. International students must have an I-20 document, or a “Certificate of Eligibility for Nonimmigrant Student Status.” One of the guidelines in an I-20 that must be followed is that they shouldn’t stay out of America for more than 5 months.

“But now it’s more than that because I am home,” Gulia said. “But I think they are going to excuse us because it’s a worldwide problem.”

initernational flags
Photo via Flickr Creative Commons