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Pandemic causing more challenges for international students

Published: Jan. 26, 2021 at 6:26 PM CST
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BROOKINGS, S.D. (Dakota News Now) - The Coronavirus pandemic forcing some U.S. Embassies to close or limit their production is causing an empty seat in some classrooms this Spring.

The Office of International Affairs at South Dakota State is navigating the process of bringing those students to America for this semester.

Freshman Mehul Deep is one of over 500 international students at SDSU who completed the visa process to be on campus for classes this semester.

“The embassy was open but it was open only two days a week, 2-3 days a week. There was a limit per day like only ten people were allowed for an interview,” said Deep.

The Qatar native said he had to have two appointments with the US embassy, “Luckily, I got in in December, both of my appointments I got in in December,” Deep added.

Deep’s last appointment was on December 28th, when he got accepted and could travel to Brookings for school.

However, not all students are as lucky as Deep when embassies reopened.

“The demand for appointments was very high, so even though embassies were open the students weren’t necessarily able to get appointments,” said SDSU Assistant VP of International Affairs Jon Stauff.

Stauff says this year is highlighting those hurdles that international students normally have to overcome.

“It’s certainly a challenge for students from South Asia, from East Asia, from Africa to get visa’s on a regular basis to the United States. So, they already have a tall order ahead of them and on top of this the pandemic has certainly made it more challenging,” Stauff added.

SDSU has a global online program for international students who couldn’t make it to campus, and Stauff estimates that number will drop from 40 last semester to less than 10 this Spring.

Overall, Deep says he’s happy to be attending classes on campus.

“I would be in-person because that’s where it makes you more comfortable and you can interact with your professor,” said Deep.

Stauff added there are still some students currently waiting on visas in hopes to make it to campus this semester.

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