After Trump administration rescinds in-person requirement, concerns remain for international students

As college campuses get set to start school in the fall, there will be a number of new norms to get used to amid the coronavirus pandemic, regardless of whether classes are conducted in person, virtually, or a hybrid of the two, but concerns still abound for some international students.

There are more than 1 million international students studying in the United States. Many were taken for a loop by a Trump administration rule that would have forced them to leave the country, or transfer schools, if all classes were done virtually because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

That rule was rescinded in July, but concerns for some remain.

Siham Samara

For Siham Samara, Marquette University was love at first sight.

"So I looked into it, visited and I really loved, I fell in love with the campus as soon as I went there, so I just decided to go there," said Samara.

The international student from Honduras -- set to start her final year studying biomedical engineering and neuroscience.

"I want to create sensors to connect the prosthetics to the brain so people can move their fingers as if it was like, a normal limb," said Samara.

Marquette University

But those career and yet-to-finish education plans were thrown into question in early July when Immigration and Customs Enforcement said students would have to leave the U.S., or transfer schools, if their school was offering online-only classes because of the pandemic -- leading to the possible deportation of thousands.

"It was really confusing, because what would happen to our apartments, and everything we have there?" said Samara. "Would we be able to (come back to the United States) to get our stuff? I know some friends can't even leave their countries yet because they don't have any flights going out."

Since then, the Trump administration rescinded the rule -- a sense of relief for Samara, who's trying to decide between grad school or work after graduation.

Through it all, Samara said Marquette has kept international students -- like her -- up to date on what the plans are moving ahead, but concerns remain as to whether another rule could be made, and not to mention returning to the U.S., as it remains a global hotspot for the virus.

Siham Samara

"I just think it would be really nice if they kept international students in the loop instead of throwing out information," said Samara.

The Milwaukee Health Department has approved Marquette's plan for in-person and online instruction, but readying to switch to completely online instruction at any point, if needed. 

The university will make a final decision on its reopening plans this week.