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HUNTSVILLE, Ala. – Students at the University of Alabama in Huntsville have finished the spring semester, but a few of them now face issues as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.

What happens to international students who can’t return home?

The University of Alabama in Huntsville wrapped up its spring semester, and even though most of the student body returned home, some international students may find themselves stuck on campus through the summer due to current travel restrictions.

Some international students are unable to get home because there are either no flights or no immediate ways to get to their home country, so UAH is accomodating the handful of students who may need to remain on campus this summer.

The University of Alabama in Huntsville says about 35 international students were on campus during the spring semester, and the school expects half or fewer to remain on campus. In a statement, student affairs personnel say they are allowing students to remain in their assigned living spaces until May 15. After that, the school will make accommodations as needed depending on the situation. These students notified the university of their inability to fly home and the school says there will be no additional rental fees charged during this time.

One of those students, Rinata Bauzhanova, says she won’t be able to return home anytime soon.

“Unfortunately I’m not allowed to go home right now,” she explained. “I’ve already called my airline and they say I’ll probably stay here until December. I was supposed to go home during May, I wanted to move my flight to June or July but they say the closest is like middle of September, so it’s like ‘I guess I’m staying here next semester as well.'”

Bauzhanova says she was fortunate enough to move off-campus earlier this week to spend the summer with a close friend in Utah.

Student Affairs is working with the Office of International Services to help international students work out short-term and extended housing needs.

Online learning creates new issues, stresses

Online learning is supposed to be convenient and easy, right? Well, UAH students just completed the school year and will start online summer classes in just a few weeks. One student said he actually misses that face to face learning style, and of course educators say that’s the most ideal situation, but COVID-19 forced students to space out and learn from home.

Like many college students, UAH students don’t yet know if they’ll return to campus this fall or if they’ll have to continue taking online classes. Research finds that e-learning gives students flexibility, better time management, and improved technical skills.

UAH student Nazar Pyvovar agrees that it has given him independence, but he also says it may be too much independence for students in his shoes. He’s a sophomore studying physics and math.

“I don’t want to say it’s going to be harder to get through the class,” he stated. “I’m going to say it’s going to be harder to learn something, cause even if you do assignments and don’t interact in person, especially with physics and math, it’s kind of crucial sometimes to just be able to interact with your professor and ask questions you don’t understand.”

In the fall of 2017, the National Center for Education Statistics said 33-percent of undergraduates took a distance learning course where some or all classwork was completed remotely.

International students may not be able to return to campus in the fall

So a lot of international students are already back in their home countries, and eventually, we will find out if in-person classes will resume in the fall. But that leaves a problem – will international students be able to return to the United States in time for class?

The Office of International Services at UAH says that’s a tough situation, but administrators say right now, they are looking ahead at how things will play out.

The school says students coming to UAH in the fall will face two things:

One – will they have the ability to travel? Two – will they want to risk traveling internationally, given that the pandemic will likely exist in their home countries or in their travel routes?

International Services Dean David Berkowitz says if the United States Consulates do not open overseas, students won’t have the ability to get a visa back to the United States. Even if students have a visa, they may face travel restrictions abroad.

“There’s a task force that the University of Alabama system has created and that task force is looking at safety issues, and making sure in the event that we open up in the fall, then everybody will be protected, he said. “Not only students, but staff and faculty as well.”

Berkowitz says if in-person classes resume in the fall, international students may need to self-quarantine for 14 days.

Now, nothing is set in stone. The University says it is keeping the health and safety of all students in mind, regardless of what happens in the fall.