September 19, 2002

International Students Face Life Post 9/11

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Just one year after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, international students at Cornell still feel the impact.

The International Students and Scholars Office has reported that approximately 15 foreign students have not yet been able to obtain visas due to stepped up security measures that began after Sept. 11.

“There have been students who have not been able to get their visas,” said Wendy Schaerer, an undergraduate admissions officer in charge of international students.

Schaerer also commented on foreign applications and admissions.

“Our applications were down,” she said, “however it is hard to say that this decrease was due to 9/11.”

Part of the reason that the number of international applications were down Schaerer explained, was that the number of U.S. citizens living overseas has declined 30 percent in the last year.

“After 9/11, some companies and the government reduced the numbers of people that they had working overseas and that affects the number of students applying from overseas,” Schaerer said. She added, “We have seen this happen before, when the U.S. economy was not great about 10 years ago we saw a similar occurrence.”

Despite the terrorist attacks, Schaerer said that, “applications were only down 1 and a half percent.”

She commented that, “I think that we were very fortunate and that 9/11 did not in a significant way effect students’ plans to study at Cornell.”

Director of the international students and scholars office, Brendan O’Brien said, “Students who are here have said that they felt well supported after the terrorist attacks, although there was a lot of anxiety.”

He added, “International students were greatly saddened by the events. All of the influence on security, especially in applying for visas, has caused some degree of difficulty for international students.”

While the problems caused by increased security apply to all international students in general, O’Brien said, “We have had a number of students with problems from Malaysia as well as all countries identified as Muslim countries.”

Commenting on the increased security measures, “I think the government is using reasonable security procedures,” O’Brien said. “I think it is a great shame that students who are hoping to come and study in the United States are not able to.”

Ashima Chitre ’06, an architecture student from Bahrain, a country off of the coast of Saudi Arabia, commented on her experience coming into the United States to study.

“It wasn’t difficult for me at all,” Chitre said. “I know it can be hard to get a visa to come to the States.”

According to Chitre, in Amsterdam, immigration interviews students and thoroughly review the student’s I-20, a form which allows students to enter the United States for the purpose of studying.

Chitre said, “When you get to Amsterdam for the flight to the U.S., they interview you for about 20 minutes.”

She added, “I think the fact that I am from the Middle East makes it take even longer. It takes time but [the security] is worth it.”

Archived article by Chris Mitchell