International students express travel difficulties, concerns about fall semester

People+in+the+airport+wear+protective+equipment.+%0A%0APhoto+courtesy+of+Henry+Yang

People in the airport wear protective equipment. Photo courtesy of Henry Yang

Henry Yang had a flight to China June 11.

Yang, a senior in the College of Business Administration and international student, said that his ticket for a one-way flight was much more expensive than his normal round trip tickets. He said flight prices are now at least $4,000, when round trip flights used to be $600. In addition, he said they are very difficult to get.

“My family bought (the ticket) for me,” Yang said. “It was very costly. I spent a lot of time to get it.”

Not only are flights more expensive and hard to get, he said, but they also have increased travel times.

Yang’s flight was from New York to the Netherlands, with a five hour layover, then to China. He said some travel times could be even worse, with more than 30 hours total travel time for some. Yang said travel time is normally around half of that.

He said this is difficult for people traveling as they do not want to get exposed or face health risks in long layovers.

Travel restrictions between the United States and China are very strict currently due to the coronavirus pandemic, making direct flights difficult, Yang said.

Yang said after entering  China, individuals have to go through a checking process and get a COVID-19 test. They are then sent to a hotel to complete a two week long quarantine, he said.

Yang said he is also concerned about the difficulties he may face when he comes back to Marquette in the fall. Yang said he has emailed the Office of International Education and other offices in the university with concerns and has rarely received a direct or clear answer. He said he has also asked questions during Marquette Town Hall forums.

He said the lack of response makes things difficult for international students, giving them less time to plan what their next steps will be.

“If the university cannot provide a perfect solution for everyone, some might just not go back,” Yang said.

Yang said a possible outcome for students who are unable to return is online classes, but he is concerned that that may not be enough. Yang said that there will be time zone differences and the availability of classes will be limited.

He said he wants professors to have flexibility with online courses if that is the outcome, especially when Marquette international students come from all around the world.

Yang also said that visas could be a problem. He said that although undergraduate students have longer terms on their visas, graduate students often have one year visas. This would make it difficult for those students to come back.

Linlin Li, a senior in the College of Business Administration and international student, said she normally travels home for summer and winter breaks.

Li said her parents are worried about her in Milwaukee and that a lot of students want to return home because of the issues. However, she said the flight restrictions make it really difficult.

“It’s like to buy the lottery, to go back,” she said, as flights continually get canceled.

Li said she personally is not returning home as she wants to do an internship in Milwaukee and does not want to deal with the difficulties.

Although Li is unable to go home, she said she personally feels okay staying in Milwaukee.

“It’s a good opportunity for me to grow independently and I video chat with my parents every week,” Li said. Because she keeps in contact with parents, Li said she’s fine staying in Milwaukee temporarily.

Xiaobin Xue, a senior in the College of Business Administration, said he is flying home because he has an internship in China beginning in July.

He said his ticket was very expensive and he thinks it is a possibility he will not be able to return to Milwaukee.

Ellen Blauw, associate director of the Office of International Education, said many issues faced by international students are on governmental levels, making it complicated for Marquette to help.

Blauw said it may be challenging for international students to be able to enter the United States again in the fall, and the Office of International Education has been contemplating what that means for the next semester.

She said they have been talking to the Office of Residence Life regarding spaces for international students to self quarantine when entering the country.

Blauw said a lot of issues are still being worked out over the summer.

“There is just a lot of unknowns,” Blauw said. “We wish everything was clear how things were going to work in the fall but some of those things are still unfolding.”

She said the university will support students and provide accommodations for students who are unable to return. She said the Office of International Education and the provost’s office will work with students and see what they can do.

Blauw said the office has also raised concerns about potential time zone issues if classes are online for international students, and has begun thinking through some methods that are asynchronous.

This story was written by Annie Mattea. She can be reached at anne.mattea@marquette.edu.