Representing students from 63 countries, international students make up about 22.6 percent of the University’s student body. Despite their growing presence, many international students say that attending and succeeding on campus in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic has been a challenge.
Sophia Lohmeyer ’25 is from both Sweden and Dubai. As a result of the surge of COVID-19 cases at the end of the fall 2021 semester, Lohmeyer faced many difficulties in finding a flight home to Dubai.
“I was extremely worried I wasn’t going to make it home at all for winter break because Dubai had extremely strict COVID-19 restrictions,” Lohmeyer said. While she was able to make it home, many other international students were not able to get home until after the holidays, if at all.
According to Lohmeyer, there are both positives and negatives to being an international student attending a university far away from home. While she enjoys feeling independent, Lohmeyer also faces worries and obstacles that many domestic students can not relate to, such as seeking out familial support in emergency situations.
Tim Aksenenko ’24 is from Switzerland. He also stated how international students often have fears and pressures that domestic students do not have to face.
“Current uncertainties, such as the ongoing conflict in Europe, have increased anxiety and stress for international travelers and people staying in the United States who may need to travel back,” Aksenenko said.
Akseneko has also found obtaining access to employment in the United States to be a daunting process for international students. Due to the strict and complicated nature of U.S. immigration policies, job competition is exceptionally high for international students looking to seek employment in their fields of study.
Diya Bansal ’25, originally from North India, has lived in Dubai for the past 12 years. Upon her arrival at Cornell, Bansal has noticed many differences between the Cornell campus environment and her life back home.
“There is definitely a much larger diversity here on campus,” Bansal said. “I come from a big city so living in Ithaca definitely has a lot of small-town vibes. But it’s all about making this place home.”
Given some current international travel rules surrounding COVID-19, Lohmeyer, Aksenenko and Bansal all expressed the added stress of traveling home during breaks as international students.
“I definitely do feel like there is some amount of added stress closer to flights as some airlines or countries have rules regarding PCR testing before travel or quarantine after landing,” Bansal said.
Despite these challenges, international students expressed their appreciation for the unique opportunity Cornell provides for them. Cornellians are able to enjoy a multitude of perspectives and meet students from almost every corner of the globe.
“I feel very grateful for having friends, professors and people around me who make me feel welcomed and glad to be part of Cornell,” Bansal said.