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I just want to go home: Omicron variant casts doubt on international student travel plans

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Yale Daily News

While the Omicron COVID-19 variant contributes to an unsafe public health situation, international students face potential travel complications during the winter holidays.

With campus closing on December 23rd for the winter holidays, concerns are mounting among the international student body about travel plans. With a growing number of international travel restrictions, the possibility of institutional quarantine mandates, and the potential inability to travel back to the U.S. in January, students are concerned that they may not be able to go home or be unable to return to New Haven.

I just want to go home and see my family. That’s all I want to do, Ananya Purushottam 25, an international student from India, told News.

On December 6, the Office of International Students and Scholars, or OISS, sent an email to international students instructing them to consider the risks of travel, also making it clear that they would support students who decide to leave the country this winter. The message instructed the students to watch the international trip REMINDER posted by OISS on December 2nd as well MeSSAge by the Office of International Affairs, or OIA, sent to all students earlier that day.

The OIA email described that international vacation travel is indeed possible, but poses a greater risk than domestic travel, and so students may wish to change or even cancel international travel plans. He also stated that flight cancellations and new international restrictions, which can be enforced with little warning, could lead to the possibility of passengers being stranded. Therefore, their return to the US at the beginning of next semester may be delayed.

After weighing these risks versus other considerations like the mental health benefits of spending the holidays with your family or spending a quiet time at home after a tiring semester, if you eventually decide to travel, we also want you to do so this in the safest way. it is possible and prepare to face any possible changes and obstacles during your trip, read the message sent by OISS Executive Director Ann Kuhlman and Senior Advisor Ozan Say.

Dean of Student Affairs Melanie Boyd wrote to the News that she expects[s] that students who cannot return to campus for the 2022 spring semester will need to take a break. Vacationers are eligible to re-register the following semester.

According to Yale College policies and procedures on the website, students with good academic standing are eligible to apply for up to two vacation terms during their undergraduate career. As a pandemic accommodation during the 2020-21 academic year, the University chose not to count absenteeism permits against the two-semester limit, Boyd explained that the policy is implemented again this year.

A December 1 email to Princeton University students from Albert Rivera, director of the Davis International Center at Princeton University, took on a more direct tone. Rivera explicitly mentioned the possibility that if international students could not return, they would be required to take leave as there are no hybrid tuition plans.

He also warned students seeking visas to face obstacles such as limited consular appointments, cancellation of appointments and delays in issuing visas.

Rivera encouraged international students for whom this risk is not acceptable to require local family or friends to spend the winter holidays, or alternatively, to apply for permanent accommodation on campus until December 17th.

Michael Hotchkiss, a deputy spokesman at Princeton University, wrote in a statement to News that while he was aware that the December 1 email caused confusion and concern, the university chose to prioritize rapid communication with international students in order to give them as much time as possible to evaluate their options and make decisions. Princeton is making permanent accommodation available to all international students during the free winter break, according to Hotchkiss students receiving financial aid will also have free lunch options. Hotchkiss added that the Vice President’s Office for Campus Life in Princetons provides limited funding to address financial difficulties.

Throughout the pandemic, the University has worked to support our international students, including helping them navigate the many challenges posed by changing government travel restrictions, Hotchkiss wrote. Unfortunately, the appearance of the Omicron variant has again brought considerable uncertainty regarding ongoing travel.

News spoke with eight international students at Yale, many of whom said the Princetons email which was sent three days before Monday’s email to Yales caused concern. However, some also praised the Princetons’ directness and speed in dealing with the issue.

The Princetons email sounds very, very harsh and I’m sure it caused a lot of panic on campus, so I really appreciate Yale OISS for sending us a happier and more hopeful email, said Yuliia Zhukovets 23, an international student from Ukraine.

But even with Yales’s statement of support for students wishing to travel home, some international students remain concerned. For some, one of the main fears is the possibility of establishing an institutional quarantine in their country. Some countries have imposed a quarantine for travelers from specific regions due to the increase in the Omicron variant, forcing some students to face this opportunity for the first time.

If the US is added [to the Indian list of at-risk countries] then I’ll have to spend two weeks in a casual hotel which I really do not want to do, said Arnav Tawakley 24.

A two-week quarantine means students will only have a week and a half to spend with family. Purushottam added that if a quarantine is imposed, it makes no sense to pay thousands of dollars to fly home for a week.

On December 1, Neel Malhotra 24 wrote to the OISS about the possibility of taking the final exams online, so that she could leave to travel back to India early. Malhotra wanted to travel home as soon as possible to avoid the possibility of any possible quarantine.

I want to maximize the time I spend with my family, Malhotra said. Unlike most people here, we do not return so often, we do not return for the autumn holidays, we do not return for Thanksgiving.

The OISS responded that there is no university-wide policy that allows this and that individual final exams cannot be checked online unless all exams are moved to an online format.

Purushottam believes allowing students like her and Malhotra to take final exams online so they can travel home is now the least they can do. [Yale] I can do. That would be a way to ensure that international students could spend the holidays with family, instead of a hotel, she said.

On November 26, President Biden issued a proclamation suspending the entry of foreign nationals from eight African countries: Botswana, Eswatini, Lesotho, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, South Africa, and Zimbabwe. The OISS email stressed their inability to predict whether there will be further travel restrictions, or when this will be lifted, but stated that it is too early to conclude that you will not be allowed to enter the US if decide to Travel.

Five international students from Africa, two of whom come from South Africa, did not respond to requests for comment until publication.

Despite Omicron’s concerns, Carl Bager 25 still plans to travel home to Denmark unless Yale issues a statement like the Princetons urging international students to stay in the US Canceling plans now would be extremely inappropriate, not to mention financially heavy, he said.

I have my plane ticket and it would be a huge cost to afford [to cancel the reservation], said Bager.

Most of the students the News spoke to wanted Yale to keep his campus open during the holidays for international students for whom it is not practical, possible or safe to return home. Last year, this was a choice for international students who could not return home.

This year, international students who want to stay in the US and need housing have the opportunity to stay at the Omni Hotel. of link to request this housing was sent to the OISS message of 6 December.

If international students are unable to return home for any reason and if they can not make any alternative arrangements in the US to stay with family or friends, then they may seek intercourse accommodation to stay at the OMNI Hotel for all or part of periods when on-campus residences will no longer be available, Say wrote in an email to News.

However Malhotra expressed his concern that international students who do not receive financial aid will have to pay out of pocket to stay at the Omni Hotel for a month, which is definitely a lot.

Boyd wrote to the News that hotel accommodation and a food stipend would be covered for international students with financial aid. Those who receive little or no assistance will need to consult the OISS.

Whatever your decision regarding winter vacation travel, please be aware that OISS, together with our colleagues at YCDO, OIA and other university units, will continue to monitor the situation and send you vital information affecting ride. Most importantly, as always, we will continue to support you during the upcoming holiday and travel season, Kuhlman and Say wrote at the end of their email to the international university student body.

The Omicron variant has been discovered in at least 45 kombe world.




OLIVIA TUCKER




Olivia Tucker covers student policies and issues. She has previously served as associate editor of Yale Daily News Magazine and has covered gender equality and diversity as a staff reporter. Originally from the San Francisco Bay Area, she is a second-year student at Davenport College with an English degree.

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