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Getting back: International students face flight cancellations or delays

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Tim Huff learned to deal with any scenario while working during the pandemic.

Huff is the administrator and adviser to the International Student Organization. He has been working internationally with the university since 1991. Huff spoke with The O’Colly to discuss the challenges international students will be facing this semester.

Q: With cases of COVID-19 variants such as delta and omicron surging up again over the break, what have been the inconveniences that international students have had to overcome thus far?

A: The flights are the biggest thing, and as far as the infection rates for the kids coming back in, we haven’t really heard of a tremendous number of them. Only a couple positive cases have come back so far. The university has these certain students in self isolation, and the ISS (International Students and Services) is working directly with these students to complete their orientation and registration digitally, and then hopefully see them in person to complete immigration information.

Q: How is the ISS working to test arriving students for COVID-19?

A: What we’re primarily doing is making sure that the new arrivals are being facilitated and properly screened through University Health Services. This has been regular practice for international students for the last 25 years at least. The health screening is nothing new, but COVID screening has been added to the process.

Q: Compared to last semester, how challenging will the upcoming semester be?

A: We’ve been operating under this cloud of pandemic for the last 2 years, and it’s one of those things where you just learn to deal with all of the possible scenarios that could go wrong. This year, what we’re seeing more than anything else is the delays and cancellations of flights, and this is probably going to be our biggest challenge for the semester.

Q: Are there certain parts of the world where students are having a tougher time than others with getting back?

A: Under normal circumstances, I’d say that would be the case, but with delta and omicron as volatile as it is, this year I’d say it’s all over. It isn’t so much the political side of things as it is the practical side of things. It’s certainly more chaotic this year than the last couple of years, but fortunately the university has extended the enrollment until the 18th, which gives more time for those students to get back in time to enroll.

Q: Besides COVID-19, what are the ‘normal’ challenges the international students will have to face this semester?

A: The biggest challenge is integrating the new international students with the rest of campus. It makes it challenging to do this with the restrictions of how many people can be in one room, and whether or not classes will be digital for a little while. The best thing we can do is to make sure these students are informed and are staying in touch with their instructors to stay on top of their education. Sooner or later, the pandemic should peak and start declining, and once it does, we can get back to regular programming where we can get these students into the greater campus and community.