Due to vaccination rollouts and quarantine restrictions, plans for in-person classes next semester will have an impact on international students in the fall.
As the university transitions to a fully in-person Fall 2021 semester, international students are expected to follow the same guidelines: attend all in-person classes and live on campus this semester.
Plans for international students and travel for the coming semester are still reliant on low COVID-19 rates. However, unless the embassies and the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) make significant changes as a result of the pandemic, there will be a push for fully in-person classes next semester, according to Doug Christiansen, vice provost for university enrollment affairs.
“Studying remotely will not be an option unless the pandemic status changes dramatically over the spring and summer, or public health guidelines advise against in-person instruction,” Christiansen said.
Usually, the DHS continues to grant permission for online and remote study; however, no updates for the Fall 2021 semester have been issued as of April 25, 2021. Vanderbilt’s operations for the fall semester will have to follow the DHS guidelines for F-1 visa students. The DHS has confirmed that F-1 students will be able to participate in online and remote study throughout the summer.
Vanderbilt’s International Student and Scholar Services (ISSS) ensures the university’s institutional compliance with federal regulations, allowing international students to attend.
“ISSS is continuing to monitor the phased reopening of US Embassies and Consulates and will make recommendations for international students next semester based on any developments,” ISSS said in an April 14, 2021 message to The Hustler.
This school year, international students’ access to travel varied, with different travel bans in countries such as the United Kingdom, Ireland, Brazil, and China. According to NAFSA: Association of International Educators, these bans impacted international students’ ability to live on campus.
According to Mohammad Khan, a first-year international student from Pakistan, travel embassies in Pakistan have implemented travel bans for the Fall 2020 semester. As a result, Khan spent the Fall 2020 semester studying remotely in Pakistan.
“Because of COVID-19, I and many of my fellow international students were unable to obtain visas due to embassies being closed last semester,” Khan explained.
According to Khan, Pakistani embassies later opened up for the spring semester, allowing him to continue his studies on campus this semester.
Khan also stated that, given the Biden administration’s consideration of requiring a vaccine passport for international travellers entering the United States, entering the country could be difficult for him. According to Khan, international students from developing countries who do not have widespread access to vaccines will be unable to enter the country and study in the United States.
Ashley Wu, a first-year Taiwanese international student, stated that while she could attend classes in person for both the Fall 2020 and Spring 2021 semesters, mandating fully in-person classes for international students would not be feasible for the upcoming semester.
Due to the quarantine restrictions imposed upon arrival in the United States, Wu believes that having the option to stay off campus could be beneficial for international students due to the unpredictability of COVID-19 this year.
“International students should be able to stay online next semester because most of the world does not have access to vaccination rollouts and quarantine restrictions that vary by country,” Wu said.
ISSS will continue to keep students informed of developments regarding international student travel and will be available to answer questions.
“Restrictions may fluctuate as the national response to the pandemic develops and shifts,” the ISSS said. “The ISSS staff will stay up to date on U.S. entry restrictions and developments with U.S. federal agencies that impact international student and scholar travel abroad.”