Not everyone knew that a pandemic would strike and close almost all trips. For many international students, the doors to education abroad are closed. Now they are starting to open.
Murray State has seen a steady decline in international registrations. According to the Murray State Fact Book, the percentage of international students to the overall student body fell from 7% to 4% from fall 2019 to fall 2020.
Officials from Murray State’s Institute with International Studies said COVID-19 caused one of the biggest drops in international students at Murray State in recent memory. To combat this decrease, the International Registration Office as well as English as a Second Language (ESL) have used virtual methods.
Tyson Manering, director of international recruiting, said he was already in control of ZOOM even before the pandemic. Manering said he regularly gives virtual tours to international students.
âTraveling and actually being with students helps us connect and gain student trust,â Manering said. âThe pandemic has made it harder to make those connections. “
The lack of in-person activities has also eroded international students’ sense of belonging to the rest of the university.
Murray State’s Institute of International Studies assists these students with academic and immigration matters. They also help them acclimatize and feel comfortable in a new living environment.
Maxie Heppie, a former international admissions assistant, was part of the International Admissions Office when the pandemic struck. Prior to 2020, Heppie was processing hundreds of I-20s (Certificate of Eligibility for Non-Immigrant Student Status) per year. In 2020, the number of I-20s decreased by almost 50%.
âIt was hard to see these students, some of them with their families, have an amazing experience here and then they couldn’t,â Heppie said. âIt was difficult for them to have food and a warm place to stay. “
Post-Gazette Journalist Bill Schackner found that the number of new international students currently studying in the United States has fallen by 46%. Schackner also found that the total number of registrations for the 2020-2021 academic year was down 15%.
As the pandemic and resulting travel policies have relaxed, international students are more interested in coming to the United States. Manering said the number of hires quadrupled from last year.
Murray State is one of thousands of universities in the United States that are expected to see a surge in international enrollments in fall 2021 and into the coming semesters.
According to Forbes magazine, the vast majority of colleges have experienced a return to normal with their overseas education programs. Micheal T. Nietzel of Forbes said recruiting was one of the reasons international programs at universities were able to survive the pandemic.
Nietzel discovered that universities have several methods of retaining international students. Many cited extensive outreach and guidance for maintaining a stable international community with universities.
Dr Guangming Zou, assistant vice president for international studies, said it is essential that enrollment has a large network of resources. These resources include recruiting and ESL.
âStaying on top of a changing world is very important to maintain decent enrollments,â Zou said. âWe have many sources of registration. If a source doesn’t work, it can influence us but it won’t kill us. “
International and ESL students are optimistic about the future of international enrollment. Jinsoo Kim, an ESL student from South Korea, said the South Korean and US governments have made the vaccination easier.
âI hope Murray State will make it safe for all students,â Kim said. âI’m not at all worried. “