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International Student: IR

IR is an international student at Calvin University.  She came to Calvin from Honduras and studied Economics and Data Science.  Throughout this interview you’ll hear how proposed legislation around international students along with COVID-19 has affected her.  

This interview is part of our series International Students Speak created to give an inside look at how policies impact real people on the ground.  

OSJ:  What were you planning to do before the pandemic hit?  

IR: I was planning on working for at least a year, and then going to grad school.  I started applying to jobs in February but then COVID happened. I had applied to Optional Practical Training at the beginning of May, my OPT was approved but I still didn't have a job. Under OPT I get 90 days of unemployment and then I would have to leave the country. It was stressful because no one was getting back to me. 

So I decided to change my plans and applied to grad school earlier than I’d anticipated. However, since it was May, the deadline to apply to the programs I wanted had passed. I was going through a lot mentally and emotionally. Back home many people are dying of COVID largely because the government has stolen all the funds for COVID relief. But it got to a point where I just wanted to go back home to be with my family. But the borders were closed, so I couldn’t.

OSJ: But I understand you had an answer to prayer?

IR: I was accepted to a grad program. That was amazing, I was really happy because it's a program that I actually really like and I'm looking forward to.  And then I also got a scholarship that I didn't apply for so it was really nice. And then my summer internship was extended, and that was great because if they hadn’t extended this internship for me before grad school, then I would have had to find a way to go back home and come back in January because you can only be here if you're working. The U.S. government only gives you 90 days of unemployment. 

It was literally God and the prayers from my mom and my dad.  I can't describe how awful I felt because I couldn’t even go home because the borders are closed. It's very stressful because you always need to be doing something for the U.S. you never really get a break. 

OSJ: What are some of the differences between your experiences and domestic students?

IR: Americans can just literally be like, “Oh I want to take a gap year, great. I'm gonna travel the world.” You know?  They can do whatever they want and have the time of their life. But international students always need to be doing something academic or professional.  For Optional Practical Training (OPT) we have minimum hours we have to work.  You need to work at least 20, and there is no maximum.

OSJ: What questions have you been asked about your experiences?

IR: I think that's something that frustrates me sometimes.  When I was stressed about all this people said, “Why don’t you just go back home?”  And I was like, first of all, the borders are closed so I can’t, and second, “Have I not told you about the Honduran government?” You know, the government is corrupt.  It's really frustrating because there are many immigrants from Honduras - we've had like the biggest wave of immigrants in the recent years because of all the injustices that are happening back home.  And the difference between them and me is that I am here studying, right?  So I can be here legally, but they can’t. It's very sad because we're both just looking for better opportunities.

Photo by Green Chameleon on Unsplash

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