International students were shocked by Donald Trump’s rise to power — but even more than domestic students, they are concerned about their potentially volatile future in Trump’s America.
“My family expressed more surprise than concern after the election results,” Aishwarya Sreenivas ’21 said. “I don’t think an outsider like Trump could have ever bypassed the political establishment and still get elected in India.”
Akhilesh Issur ’17, Student Assembly international student liaison at large, said has spoken with many international students who are concerned for their futures.
“I’ve been contacted by several international students regarding the election results in the past few days,” he said. “There have been incidents of sexism and racism on campus. We’ve encouraged people to report these events using the Cornell bias reporting system and look out for each other.”
Sahir Choudhary ’20 said he fears Trump’s election will inspire racist incidents targeting minorities and international students.
“As a Muslim, I was particularly affected by Trump’s bigotry and divisive rhetoric,” he said. “I’m even more scared, though, by the fact that many people now view Trump as an enabler for their sexist and racist behavior.”
Back home in India, Choudhary said his parents are keeping a keen eye on the events unfolding in the United States.
“Although I’ve told them that things are better than they seem, [my parents] are seriously re-considering whether they should send my sister to the United States for her undergraduate degree next year,” he said.
Choudhary’s concerns have been echoed by many international students at Cornell. While the Trump administration’s specific policies on international students remain ambiguous, Issur said he worries Trump’s controversial anti-immigration stance may cause fewer international students to apply to American universities.
“One of the possible outcomes of the election results is a drop in international applications,” Issur said. “Even though New York itself remains a largely liberal state, America’s overall image of inclusiveness and diversity has been damaged.”
Had the election results been announced before he was admitted, Choudhary said he certainly would not have applied to Cornell.
“I’d be looking at universities in the U.K. and Canada,” he said. “Although the actual student visa process in those countries is probably more difficult, there is a far more positive attitude towards international students and their job prospects.”
Future job prospects are also a major concern for international students in the United States. Although he has been looking at summer internships in Florida and Texas, Choudhary said he has since dismissed those possibilities.
Sreenivas added that her parents are worried about her brother’s job prospects after his graduation from Stanford University.
“The Trump administration’s constant flip-flops on immigration policies certainly don’t help,” she said.
Despite the general air of pessimism, Issur argued that Cornell’s attempts to reassure international students, with events like Breaking Bread and Vice President Ryan Lombardi’s message to the Cornell community, have had a positive impact.
Issur also remarked that the support provided to international students from other minority groups within Cornell has been immense.
“The entire Cornell community has really come together over the past few days, and the best way to move forward is to stand in solidarity with all those individuals who feel marginalized by the new political scenario,” he said.