A letter discouraging winter break travel has sparked frustration among international students, many of whom have not been able to meet family since the start of term.
At 4:54 p.m. on December 3, the Davis International Center sent an email to all international students on behalf of university officials, explaining how the omicron variant reintroduced the uncertainty of global travel.
“While it is impossible to make a prediction for any individual country or region, international students should be advised that there is an increased possibility that they will not be allowed to return to the United States in January,” the email read.
The email stated that for degree-seeking student visa holders, there may be no exception in the national interest, and such students may not be able to return to the United States.
According to the email, students who go home during recess and cannot return to the United States will have to take time off, as the university has no plans for co-education at this time. To stay on track with degree progression, students who take time off likely won’t be able to return to their studies until spring 2023.
International students have a few options. The university advises international students to stay with friends or family in the United States if possible. If not, you are advised to apply for continuous housing by December 17th.
Given the uncertainty around COVID-19, the Davis Center also noted that “international students requiring a visa should be prepared for limited consular appointments, potential visa issuance delays, and potential appointment cancellations.”
According to several students, students with dual citizenships of the United States and another country did not receive the email.
In an email to The Daily Princetonian, university deputy spokesperson Michael Hotchkiss explained the reason behind the Davis Center announcement.
“Throughout the pandemic,” Hotchkiss wrote, “the university has worked to support our international students, including helping them navigate the many challenges posed by changing government travel restrictions.” “Unfortunately, the emergence of the Omicron variant again has led to significant uncertainty regarding future travel.”
“While we know the information shared in Friday’s memo has caused some confusion and concern, it has been our priority to inform our international students as soon as possible to give them plenty of time to consider their options and follow up with the appropriate offices,” he wrote. .
In response to the announcement, a group of international students emailed the university.
This email discussed the number of international students who have not been able to return home to their family and friends, in accordance with university policy, since arriving on campus in early August.
“It is also important to consider how harsh and insensitive this policy is,” the email read. “While they are over 18, for many students, this is the first time they have been away from home for an extended period of time. This, combined with the pressures of cultural adjustments, homesickness, and academic rigor means that the average international student has suffered a great deal It is a struggle and deserves attention and care from the university.”
The email also mentioned how many students had already purchased their plane tickets home, and were looking forward to spending time with their families.
The group urged Princeton University to provide help and resources to those who need it and to consider options, such as blended learning or a quarantine process on arrival.
“It is disappointing to see the institution once again ignoring the concerns of international students in the name of safety and health,” the email read.
Many international students have expressed concerns about the email sent from Davis IC.
“It feels like they are ignoring us [international students] At a time when we need support the most,” Enrique Zúñiga Gonzalez 22 wrote in a letter to the Daily Princetonian.
“While I understand and somewhat agree with the logic behind the travel advisory, I hope that the university will be open to talks and centers for low-income international students for one time,” Zúñiga González wrote.
Zúñiga González explained how students in December or January are exposed to tax charges in their accounts.
“It put me and others in the uncomfortable position of choosing between feeding ourselves during the winter holidays, paying our taxes, or borrowing (in the form of student loans) to cover these fees,” Gonzalez wrote. “It is very sad to see a university that is doing so well financially, celebrating a 40% return on its scholarship, while its most vulnerable students have to make these tough decisions.”
Ian Friedman 25 expressed a similar opinion.
“I do feel like a second-class citizen here—this is a new country, culture and language to me. Our neglect reinforces this,” Friedman wrote in a letter to The Prince. “The only center that is supposed to support us, Davis IC, has turned its back on us. completely. If they are not the ones defending us, who will? “
Friedman added that the possibility of doing hybrid learning should exist.
“No one wants to attend Zoom School, but no one should have to choose between seeing our family, being reunited with our culture, or getting an education,” Friedman wrote. “I can’t risk leaving and not coming back until 2023 – that’s crazy.”
Lizzie Curran 23 is a student leader at Davis International Center and provides guidance and assistance to younger international students. She sympathized with the early years and explained how he actually reached out to her for advice.
“I think the hardest thing is that we, as leaders, were never told or even warned that this might be issued, so it was very difficult to process the news ourselves while at the same time trying to be a source of guidance and assistance to the younger students,” he wrote. Curran in an email to The Prince.
“I know to the new student specifically, the first semester is a huge period of culture shock and emotional turmoil, and the idea that the university is putting such a tough decision on their shoulders again points to a system that does not care about the well-being of its students and, above all, is broken.”
Curran also expressed frustration with how harsh and confusing the email was.
“I understand that the university itself is not in a position to change international border policy or restrictions, but they can certainly make fair and well-educated decisions that support and assist their students, which this email has in no way done,” Curran wrote. “I hope they listen to students’ reactions to this and take steps toward changing the current unfair mandate to reduce foreigners’ concerns during this period.”
According to Hotchkiss, the university will continue to support its international students in the rapidly changing public health environment.
He wrote: “As we have done in the past, we will advocate exceptions in the national interest for students and scholars, but it is not possible to know how the travel restrictions will evolve.”
Hotchkiss mentioned various resources available to international students.
“Recognizing that changing winter break plans can lead to unforeseen expenses, the university is providing ongoing as needed housing for any international student during the break period at no cost, while also providing the option of free dining for students receiving financial aid,” he wrote.
“In addition, limited funds are available through the Vice President’s Office for Campus Life to address financial difficulties,” Hotchkiss continued.
Hotchkiss wrote that additional updates will come from the Davis Center.
“We will continue to share updated information with international students through the Davis International Center, and center staff will be available to answer questions this weekend, via email@example.com,” he concluded.
This piece is broken and will continue to be updated as more information becomes available.
Leah Opperman is a news contributor to “Prince.“ It can be accessed at firstname.lastname@example.org oliamariaaaa on Instagram.