UW-Madison international student describes challenges of leaving US due to online only classes

ICE announced that international students enrolled in online only courses cannot stay in the country

MADISON, Wis. — The U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement announced Monday that international students who are enrolled in online only classes for the upcoming semester will have to leave the country or risk deportation.

Universities across the country are beginning to transition to online courses as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.  This could impact thousands of students enrolled at University of Wisconsin-Madison, including third-year student Julie Tan.

“When the news came out I feel like it is kind of being hard on international students,” Tan said.

She says with the new rules put out by ICE, she now has to go back to China to finish school there.

“I choose the courses online because they are requirements of my major so I can only take the online courses.”

Tan said many of her international friends are finding this transition difficult. She said some countries have travel bans in place that prevent her friends from returning home, and she’s finding that flights are scarce right now. Tan said she’s tried four times to get flights home and all of them have been cancelled.

Tan also said taking only online courses while she’s halfway around the world factors in an additional challenge of time difference.

“It’s about a 12 hour difference. Which means if you have a class in the morning, you have to take it in the evening in China,” Tan explained.

Tan said many of her friends are trying to find a way to go back to their home countries, and many might just put their education on hold until things get better.

“They are very upset. Some of my friends are considering taking a gap year because they think only taking online courses is not satisfying their initial goal in mind of studying abroad.”

Tan said she’s scheduled to fly home July 29, if her flight doesn’t get cancelled for a fifth time.

UW-Madison Chancellor Rebecca Blank released a statement responding to the new rules. She said 5,800 students will be impacted, and that they’re “valued members of our community, and we will continue to support and advocate for them.”