Originally published in the December 10th, 2021 edition.

Sam Killebrew

Senior News Writer


The email stated the College will not be offering online classes in the spring, amidst rising concerns regarding Omicron.

With final exams around the corner, students across campus look forward to returning home and visiting their families for winter break. For international students, however, returning home is a long arduous journey made even more strenuous by the COVID-19 pandemic. With this long and complicated process, statements from the International Student Services (ISS) office have created new concerns for these students. 

Jill Munro, assistant dean of students and director of ISS, sent an email, IMPORTANT TRAVEL INFORMATION–PLEASE READ,  stating that for students who decide to travel out of the United States during winter break, the College will not offer online classes in case they do not get to come back to campus due to travel restrictions. The inability to enter the United States and a lack of online courses would force many international students to take a gap semester. Munro’s email continues, “ISS cannot make the decision of whether to travel or not for you – you need to weigh the pros and possible cons of different scenarios … We are sorry that you are once again in a situation of uncertainty.”

Many international students responded to  Munro’s email with extreme concerns. One of the students, Idris Nemisa ’25, said, “At this point, COVID isn’t a big surprise to anyone. This isn’t something we should be unprepared for.” Nemsia added, “You can’t hold international students hostage by holding their degree above their head. They deserve the same access to their education as domestic students.”

A large concern for many of these students is the possible gap semester being forced onto students who may be restricted from returning to the U.S. Rishika Daruwala ’25 expressed, “[If I was forced to take a gap semester] I would feel terrible. I came here to be here for four years, not an extra term,” Daruwala said. “If I get stuck in India, I wouldn’t be able to start a new term at an institution there because the school year looks different there. It would throw off the trajectory of my future.”

ISS, however, reiterated that they are offering accommodations to international students now that they previously did not offer before. Recently, ISS sent out an announcement with the message that all housing fees for students who needed to stay on campus this winter will be waived. This comes as a relief to many who may fit the ‘criteria’ that ISS holds for students who are eligible to stay on campus.

ISS has also told me that they are offering PCR tests to those who are traveling by plane. 

“Students were asked to fill out a survey letting the College know when their flight departs and what tests are required. We know that there is very little time for students during final exam week to arrange this testing on their own” ISS told the Voice. Many students feel that the College ought to provide more accommodations around this confusing and difficult period of time. While this is undoubtedly a step in the right direction, some students still believe that this is not substantial enough for the situation at hand. Nemsia said that while waiving housing fees may be helpful to students who didn’t plan on canceling trips, it doesn’t fix the actual issue at hand — planning for the possibility of online courses next semester. 

This concern also stems out of confusion regarding the regulations in place for students to pursue their academics outside this country. A web page titled, “Frequently Asked Questions for SEVP Stakeholders about COVID-19” in the U.S. Immigrations and Customs Enforcement answers some frequently asked questions related to international students’ visa status and requirements. One of the questions answered is as follows:

Do DSOs have to cancel Forms I-20 if students are taking classes outside of the United States? If their Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS) records remain in Active status, will students be subject to the five-month rule?

If an Active F student is outside the United States, their SEVIS record can remain in Active status and not be terminated. While the temporary measures related to COVID-19 are in place for academic year 2021-22, students are deemed to be maintaining status if they are making normal progress in their course of study. For that reason, the five-month temporary absence provision addressed in 8 CFR 214.2(f)(4) will not apply for students who remain in Active status. SEVP will allow F and M students to temporarily count online classes toward a full course of study in excess of the limits stated in 8 CFR 214.2(f)(6)(i)(G) and 8 CFR Homeland Security Investigations National Security Division Student and Exchange Visitor, even if they are outside the United States and are taking the online classes elsewhere. This temporary provision is only in effect due to COVID-19 for academic year 2021-22 and only for schools that comply with the requirement to notify SEVP of any procedural changes within 10 business days.

Perhaps students’ frustration with the email sent by ISS could be eased if the office clarified the reasons why online courses would not be offered next semester: whether they have to abide by some specific regulations or for some different reasons. For now, the biggest limbo that international students are in is, “Are we going to be able to finish our year at Wooster?”

Written by

Chloe Burdette

Welcome to The College of Wooster's Inter-Greek Council website! Here you will find out everything about our campus's Greek Life, including resources for the 2020 Rush season> We are so glad you are with us!