Boris Tsang / Sun Photography Editor

For international students, braving airports and travel restrictions during the pandemic has posed a new set of struggles as students return home for the remainder of the fall semester.

December 1, 2020

Connecting Flights and Quarantines: Two International Students Face Traveling Home

Print More

From Syracuse to Vancouver, two international freshmen embarked on a dizzying journey between cities nearly 3,000 miles away to get home in time for Thanksgiving.

What would normally have been a five-and-a-half hour flight turned into a 12-hour endeavor for Wen Ding ’24 and Annie Wu ’24, requiring them to leave campus at 3 a.m. Due to reduced flight schedules and border restrictions, the pair had to bounce between four cities before arriving at their final destination.  

“Each flight was packed full with no social distancing at all,” Wu said. “It was nerve wracking to be in such close proximity to strangers for three different flights.” 

Due to COVID-19 concerns, their parents hired a driver to take them and another student to the airport. 

When they arrived at customs in Toronto, the officers asked for their passport and a confirmation code to prove they completed a mandatory survey before flying. The survey asked respondents to indicate if they experienced any COVID-19 symptoms, as well as specific travel information including departure and arrival times for every transfer flight. 

“Mainly, they were concerned with my quarantine plans, like how and where I would be quarantined and if there are any elderly or high risk people in my home,” Ding said. 

Immediately upon their arrival, Ding and Wu started the Canadian government’s two-week quarantine. Most of the country, including Vancouver, requires a mandatory two-week quarantine for anyone returning from abroad. Nonessential has been prohibited between the U.S. and Canada. 

At the start of each week, the government calls to see if residents are at home and need any food, clothes or shelter. 

Now at home, Ding and Wu are both patiently waiting for their mandatory quarantine to come to an end. For Ding, quarantine has been difficult as he is confined to his house.

“As a person that likes to go out often and engage with other people, quarantine feels very suffocating,” Ding said. “However, I follow the quarantine procedures for the safety of my friends and other people living in my neighborhood.”