Survey finds UMN international students most concerned about visas, travel and future plans

The survey received around 780 responses from international students, and found that 91% are still living in the U.S.

Illustration by Eva Berezovsky

Illustration by Eva Berezovsky

Jiang Li

Amid the coronavirus pandemic, University of Minnesota international students are the most concerned about student visa status, travel, summer plans and the fall semester, according to an International Student and Scholar Services survey sent out last month.

ISSS is working to assess the current needs of international students as the semester swiftly approaches its end. The survey, which had more than 780 responses from international students, will help ISSS understand the concerns of international students amid the pandemic.

The continuing coronavirus pandemic has led to many changes in the past few months, like the U.S. suspending all visa services worldwide and many universities across the country opting to move classes online.

At the University, some international students have opted to go back to their home countries to escape the growing number of COVID-19 cases in the U.S.

However, the survey found that 91% of respondents are still living in the U.S. The majority is living in the same off-campus location they were in at the start of the spring semester, according to the survey. 

Though the percentage of students still in the U.S. is high, the ISSS cannot conclude that it applies to the entire international student population because they don’t know the response rate of students that are back in their home countries, said Barbara Kappler, assistant dean of ISSS.

“This tells us that we have hundreds of students still here in the Twin Cities,” Kappler said. Some students don’t have a way home, because their flights were canceled, the cost of flying has increased and some students are facing visa issues, she said.

The survey also found that though 23% of students said “the current environment of racial discrimination” has increased their stress levels, 64% said that they had not been personally affected by racial discrimination.

Many international students also expressed an interest in learning more about how to find a job and what to do if a job or internship is canceled.

ISSS is also seeking the best way to reach out to students through the survey. The survey found the most popular way to communicate was through its ISSS Weekly Update.

Kappler said the survey results will continue to be analyzed. ISSS will look to be adding information sessions or collaborate with career services to figure out how to better support international students, Kappler added.

ISSS is also looking to partner with other campus organizations to create summer programs for international students who will still be on campus in the summer months. 

“We understand that it is such a disruptive time, and we know people are looking for different types of connections in Minnesota and what everybody wants, potentially, is to really be connecting in person,” Kappler said. “We want to make some ways to explore and connect with others via Zoom but also in ways that are going to be allowable this summer.”