International first-year students face unique challenges

First year international students must overcome pandemic challenges, even as they are stranded from home and the W&L community


Grace Mamon

17 first-year international students are studying abroad at St. Andrews due to travel restrictions.

Vivek Kumar and JIN NI

The pandemic has forced a tough academic year on college students, professors and administrators at Washington and Lee University. But first-year international students face a different set of challenges.

Many national governments have also passed travel restrictions against travellers coming from COVID-19 hotspot. Student visas are also difficult to obtain for students who only have virtual classes due to new rules handed down by the Trump administration.

To work with international students, the university gave first-years a choice to either go to The University of St. Andrews or come to Lexington. Currently, 17 students are abroad and six are in Lexington.

But life isn’t easier for international students on campus. Along with the increased isolation and usual difficulties for being a first-year student, international students must also adjust to a whole new country and environment.

“There are no large gatherings due to COVID, so you have less chances of meeting new people,” Karassoulous said.

During most years, international students often have each other as a support group as they navigate the highs and lows of college in a new country. But this year, time zone differences and scheduling conflicts have made it near im- possible for all international students to com- municate with one another.

“I would much rather be in Lexington,” said Luke Potter, ‘24, who is from Britain. “I feel I am missing out.”

Jacopo Scagliotti, a first-year attending St. Andrews, said that he is more connected with the administration than students. Washington and Lee administration holds a weekly Zoom meeting with students abroad to give them up- dates and allow them a chance to check-in.

The university hopes to be able to invite first-year students back to Lexington for winter term.

If the students at St. Andrews choose to come to campus, they’ll have to adjust to a new environment again.

“It’s quite weird feeling getting to know people and then leave and do the same somewhere else,” Scagliotti said.

Once the semester ends, international students will also need to deal with the difficulties of travelling home– if they do.

Wang Ella, ‘24, from China, said that she is not sure when she will go back home. But increasing COVID-19 cases at Washington and Lee also make her nervous about coming to Lexington for winter term.

“It has been scary seeing the rise in cases in the university recently,” Karassoulos said. “If the university closes and students are sent back home, it’s more dangerous. Universities should have less movement of students outside the county to control the situation.”