International Students Split On Whether to Stay Or Go Home

Download Audio
Jack McCaghren and Luke Snyder who study at the University of Pennsylvania, arrive at Logan from Amsterdam. (Robin Lubbock/WBUR)
Jack McCaghren and Luke Snyder who study at the University of Pennsylvania, arrive at Logan from Amsterdam. (Robin Lubbock/WBUR)

As Boston area colleges and universities decide to close on-campus classes to offer online instruction for the rest of the semester, some international students are heading home.

Victor Vicente was checking in for the plane to Lisbon Thursday. He was at Logan Airport, first in the Air Portugal line.

Vicente is a freshman at Boston University. The university has told students that when spring break ends Monday, all courses will be held online until April 13.

"My bet is that it's going to continue to be online until the end [of the year]," Vicente said.

He said he's not concerned about continuing his education online, though with the time difference, he anticipates having one class at midnight Portugal time.

"But I can see that for a lot of students, it's going to be hard," Vicente said. "I have colleagues that are going back to China, which is both dangerous for them because the virus is in high performance there — I don't know if that's the right term. And it's twelve hours time difference, which is a lot to handle."

He expects everything at BU to be back to normal by the fall.

BU and many other colleges and universities are allowing some students to stay on campus. Many are sorting through a petition process, deciding which student requests to approve and which to deny.

BU spokesman Colin Riley said the university won't know how many international students are leaving and how many are staying until students do or do not return from spring break on Monday. He predicts many will stay because of travel restrictions.

UMass Amherst spokeswoman Mary Detloff said students are still changing plans, so the campus does not have a number for how many will stay and how many will return home.

At Harvard College, international students must apply to stay on campus.  Spokesperson Rachael Dane said the college will announce decisions on how long students may stay as soon as possible.

At BU on Friday, Cesar Guillen was getting ready to leave this Saturday for his aunt's place in Florida. He's from Venezuela, enrolled in BU's Center for English Language and Orientation Programs.

"Now the classes are online classes. That's not why I came here to study," Guillen said. "I came here to live the university life. Now I have to study at a computer."

Eunyong Choi is staying on the BU campus for the rest of the semester. She's a graduate student in theology from South Korea.

Choi said there's confusion about online courses.

"I don't know how it's going to work. Everyone is in confusion," she said, adding, "I think closing down a school is a good move to start for the U.S."

This segment aired on March 13, 2020.


Headshot of Fred Thys

Fred Thys Reporter
Fred Thys reported on politics and higher education for WBUR.



More from WBUR

Listen Live