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Augustana University sees drop in international students amid global pandemic

Augustana University sees drop in international students amid global pandemic
Published: Oct. 1, 2020 at 5:57 PM CDT
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SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (Dakota News Now) - Most universities across South Dakota welcomed students back to campus this fall for in-person learning, however not all international students were able to make into the country.

Coming back to campus was different for a lot of students at Augustana University this fall, but international students faced their own challenges.

Laura Arce is a Junior at Augustana from Mexico City, Mexico, and she says getting back into America amid the pandemic was more complex.

“The border system was very rigorous, and there was an extra line of security just to check more than COVID. It was stricter to come,” said Arce.

In a normal year, between 6% and 8% of Augustana students are international. However, this year that number is down.

“Last year that looked like about 120 international students from nearly 40 countries, and this year, like many schools I think we experienced a bit of a decline, so we’ve got something closer to 80 students now from about 25 countries,” said Augustana’s Director of International Programs Ben Iverson.

Around 10 students are continuing their education online outside of the U.S., as they could not make it into the country to attend school. Which brings on its own set of obstacles when it comes to class times and different time zones. Iverson attributes those students staying home to the closing of U.S. Embassy’s in certain countries.

“They just literally haven’t been able to get a stamp on their passport that allows them into the U.S. For the most part, students have been able to find flights, it’s not so much the travel aspect it’s more the legal visa aspect that they just haven’t been able to complete,” Iverson said.

Arce says her decision to come back to campus was focused on the smaller population density of South Dakota, but she has a few friends who didn’t make it back to Sioux Falls.

“Definitely they were frustrated because they really like the university.” Arce added, “They were just sad overall, like disappointed.”

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