LUBBOCK, Texas — Even before the pandemic, it was hard for international students to go back home for winter break. Now with our nationwide virus surge and travel restrictions, it’s nearly impossible.
On Sunday, KAMC News spoke with two international students at Texas Tech who weren’t able to return home for the holidays.
“I definitely had planned already stuff to do that, of course, has all gone to waste because of COVID,” said Ahmed Bayoumi, an international student from Egypt.
Bayoumi is a junior at Texas Tech, studying computer engineering. He’s also a Global Guide for the University’s Department of International Affairs, where he mentors first year international students.
He was hoping he’d be able to go to Egypt with his family this winter, but due to COVID-19 he’s still here in Lubbock.
“I also was afraid of COVID. And I don’t want to catch something I’m bringing back home to my family,” said Bayoumi.
On top of the health concerns, COVID-19 has also made travel more difficult — and frightening — for international students. Many fear they won’t be let back into the United States if they leave.
“There’s sort of an unspoken ban,” said Bayoumi. “Which we always fear is that…when we leave for our countries, there’s always a chance we can’t really come back into that United States.”
Affording flights and coordinating visas were already difficult for international students even pre-pandemic. Mohamed Edughri, from Libya, is another international student in the same boat.
“My visa was a single entry visa, which was only one year,” said Edguhri. “I can go back to my home country without any visa, of course. But to come back to the U.S. I have to do the whole process again. And there’s a high risk of not being accepted.”
The Texas Tech senior and mechanical engineering major hasn’t been back home for four years.
To stay in the U.S., which he’d like to do, he needs to get a job within 90 days. However, that’s not exactly easy when companies, feeling the pinch of the pandemic, are laying off folks left and right.
“I’m trying my best to apply for a job. But with the Corona stuff happening, it’s getting harder. I haven’t gotten any sure positions yet,” said Edguhri. “So I’m keeping to decide, I’m also applying for Masters. So I’m just trying to gain as much knowledge as I can from the U.S., get two or three years of experience from work.”
Both Bayoumi and Edguhri said they miss home, and it’s taken a toll at times, but they’re trying to make the best of it.
“I would imagine most international students are going to take that from this experience, take what it meant to be away from home for a long while,” said Bayoumi. “Take away what it meant to deal with everything virtually. And hopefully apply that positively into their life moving on.”
Both students explained that overall, there are less international students on campus this year, with many still attending online classes from their home countries. Although COVID-19 has undoubtedly been a big challenge for international students, Bayoumi and Edguhri are grateful for how Texas Tech has helped them out during this difficult time.