DURHAM, N.C. (WNCN)- International students at Duke University are worried they won’t be able to continue their education as planned this fall.
“There is still a chance of me getting a visa and going back to the US. On the other hand, I don’t know how the university is going to handle that,” said rising junior at Duke University, Hannah Nguyen.
Duke University, like many school across the country, shifted to online courses during COVID-19 this spring.
In March, Nguyen returned home to Vietnam due to the pandemic. She says not being to obtain her Optional Practical Training (OPT) visa would put not only her education, but her career pursuits on pause.
The double math and economics major already has an internship lined up for next summer at a New York City investment banking firm.
“The worst case is that I will not be able to take online classes while overseas, and I’d have to take a semester off. If that is the case, not only will I be delayed for one semester, but I will not be able to apply for OTP next summer as well,” she said.
According to the modifications, visas will not be issues to students enrolled in programs that are fully online nor will those students be allowed to enter the US.
Students currently in the country taking online only courses must either transfer to a school with in-person classes, or may be forced to leave.
Rising senior at Duke, Anne Klok, is back in Durham after returning to the Netherlands in March.
“I was really set on coming back and complete my senior year at Duke and compete for my sport and my team,” said Klok.
Klok, a member of the Varsity Rowing Team, wants to finish her senior year on campus. However, she thinks students should be able to choose if they want to take classes in person or online.
“It feels like we’re being forced to pick between doing online classes and jeopardizing our health,” Klok said.
In a statement Tuesday, Duke President Vincent Price said the University was “deeply concerned” about the directive.
“This is a misguided effort that will only harm talented young people and the colleges and universities that are vital to our society,” said Price.
Michael Schoenfeld, Vice President for Public Affairs & Government Relations and Chief Communications Officer echoed Price’s concern.
“It could seek to limit opportunities for students who very much want to be in the United States, who want to be in studying in our institutions, and who want to be contributing members of our society,” Schoenfeld said.
Schoenfeld is hopeful the University’s hybrid plan for the fall, with a mixture of in person and online courses, will limit the impact, but he acknowledges the stress put upon international students.
“This introduces another level of uncertainty, yet another level of anxiety for sure,” he said.
He said Duke is working with internal and external experts, as well as other universities to determine what will meet the visa requirements.
“There are a lot of details about what classes students will have to take, how many online classes they will be able to take if they are here in the US,” he said.
In response to the order, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill said it is working individually with affected students.
The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill values and supports our international students and their contributions to campus. Each student’s situation is unique and the University handles each immigration case individually and with due respect for each student’s privacy. The Student and Exchange Visitor Program stated that procedures and responsibilities will be published as a Temporary Final Rule in the Federal Register, so additional information may be forthcoming but is not guaranteed. International Student and Scholar Services is working closely with senior University leaders to ensure the University is compliant with this new guidance and to continue to support international students.Director of International Student and Scholar Services Ioana Costant.
In a statement, NC State University said it is also studying the possible impacts of the guidance.
“NC State will begin its fall semester on Aug. 10 with a mixture of in-person, hybrid and online classes. Supporting the health, safety and academic success of all our students – domestic and international – remains critical as we move forward in uncertain times,” a spokesperson said in a statement.