The Look in Brief

Trump’s reversal on international students negates need for preparations

By: - July 16, 2020 6:00 am
Cumberland University, Lebanon, Tenn. (Photo: Cumberland University)

Cumberland University, Lebanon, Tenn. (Photo: Cumberland University)

The Trump administration reversed their proposal on Tuesday to ban international students from U.S colleges if campuses transitioned to online-only classes, but local universities have already put in place policies to protect their international students.

Luca Joens is one of a few international students that chose to remain on campus at Cumberland University in Lebanon despite most of her friends fleeing back to their home countries due to the pandemic. Her international friends feared getting stuck in the U.S., but Joens chose to stay to pursue her master’s in business. Even when summer came around, she chose not to go home to her native Germany and took summer classes. 

We came here for a reason. We wanted to go to an American university and get that degree and eventually start a career in America.

“I haven’t been home in over a year now and I don’t know when I’ll be able to go home,” said Joens.

Joens believes if she had left, she would have been unable to continue her education and therefore chose to stay. The Trump administration then proposed a travel ban on international students if universities switched to remote-learning, citing fears that students returning to campus could bring in new COVID-19 cases. This brought even more uncertainty into Joens’s future.

“I won’t know when I’ll be able to come back,” said Joens about potentially being forced to leave her campus life. 

“I don’t feel stuck but I’m just scared because of the uncertainty. Cumberland is my home and I don’t have any family here or any other place to go,” she said.

Cumberland President Paul Stumb said school officials had already begun preparations for the worse-case scenario. The university had continued to feed and house international students who had chosen to stay during the initial March quarantine.

Paul Stumb, IV, Ph.D., President, Cumberland University (Photo: Cumberland University)
Paul Stumb, IV, Ph.D., President, Cumberland University (Photo: Cumberland University)

About 12% of Cumberland’s  student population is made up of international students and school officials were prepared to work out a plan to allow students to continue their education, such as online resources, and working with overseas facilities. 

“I believe that we are doing and will continue to do everything possible to preclude [remote learning-only classes], but the possibility certainly exists,” said Stumb. 

Despite school official’s best efforts to help their international students, the travel ban would still provide many obstacles. Joens had chosen to stay in the U.S. but later heard that some of her friends had been forced to quarantine for a month before reentering society and had no internet access in order to continue their studies. One such friend had to turn in assignments through texts. 

Joens said being forced to go home and take connecting flights to her home country increased her own exposure to the virus and the possibility of bringing it back to her family. 

“Yes, it is risky to get people from other countries to come back, but I do believe with quarantines and COVID tests there’s an easier solution. It’s wrong to send us home because we’re already here,” said Joens. 

For now, Joens is relieved that the proposal was dropped. She hopes her friends will be able to come back for the fall semester but remains wary about possible future travel bans. Joens remains dead set on finishing her studies.

“It’s frustrating. We came here for a reason. We wanted to go to an American university and get that degree and eventually start a career in America.”


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Dulce Torres Guzman
Dulce Torres Guzman

Dulce has written for the Nashville Scene and Crucero News. A graduate of Middle Tennessee State University, she received the John Seigenthaler Award for Outstanding Graduate in Print Journalism in 2016. Torres Guzman is a member of the National Association of Hispanic Journalists. She enjoys the outdoors and is passionate about preserving the environment and environmental issues.