As campus closed and classes moved online in March, Creighton’s international students facing travel bans, economic worries, and stress about family and school had to decide whether they were going to stay in the U.S. or return to their home country.
On March 11, President Donald Trump issued a proclamation banning entry by anyone who had been in the Schengen Area, a group of 26 European countries, in the 14 days leading up to their travel.
Second year graduate student Joanna Conings, from Belgium – one of the countries in the Schengen Area – decided to stay in the U.S. because she didn’t want to put her family at risk or not be able to return at the start of the fall semester. She instead spent the spring and summer at her boyfriend’s family farm in Easton, Missouri.
A similar travel ban issued on May 24, banning entry by people who were in Brazil in the 14 days leading up to their travel, is affecting Creighton’s two international students from Brazil.
David Amorim Caldas, a sophomore in the College of Arts and Sciences, returned home in March. With the ban on travel from Brazil still in effect, Amorim Caldas, who is the president of IRHG and the International Student Association, is in the middle of a 14-day quarantine in Mexico so he can enter the U.S. and return to campus for the fall semester.
“How can I be the president of the Inter Residence Hall Government, which is directly related to making events and being on campus and making sure that my community is evolving and feeling healthy and prosperous, if I’m not there?” Amorim Caldas said.
In addition to leading IRHG remotely, he has also faced challenges participating in coursework, including the organic chemistry and physics labs required for his majors, while attending remotely.
“This was something I worked a lot for and I’ve given a lot of myself to, and I was threatened to lose it all because of this travel ban,” Amorim Caldas said. “It was a very scary time.”
In Brazil, Amorim Caldas joined a movement called “We the Foreigners” that was fighting to exempt international students from Brazil from the travel ban, just as European students had been. The movement worked with members of congress to demand action from the president of Brazil and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Brazil, also known as Itamaraty.
“This work and feeling like I could do something and that I was doing something really helped relieve a lot of the pressure,” Amorim Caldas said.
The biggest part for him, he said, was contacting a Brazilian reporter at the White House, who then asked Trump his question.
After completing his quarantine period in Mexico, Amorim Caldas will arrive back on campus on Sept. 5.
Heider College of Business senior Lucas Francolino Falbo Mansur, also from Brazil, was allowed to stay on campus through the end of the spring semester, along with some other international students, he said. Over the summer, he traveled to Orlando and Miami.
“Imagine all of this happening, everyone going home and you have to stay because your home country is in a worse situation. You can’t even travel because the country you’re in is also in a very bad situation,” said Francolino Falbo Mansur.
On top of travel bans, international students also faced the uncertainty of being able to stay in the U.S. for online classes. On July 6, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement said that it would not issue F-1 visas or allow into the U.S. international students who would be attending schools operating entirely online. The statement also said international students taking all online classes who remained in the U.S. “may face immigration consequences including, but not limited to, the initiation of removal proceedings,” or deportation.
“That was shocking,” said Francolino Falbo Mansur.
ICE reversed the rule shortly after, but Conings said that was one example of the uncertainty and fear international students face.
“There was a lot of stress piling up, piling up, piling up all the time,” she said.
International students who are in the U.S. on an F-1 visa are only allowed to hold jobs on campus. When campus closed, Conings lost the income she would have received from an on-campus job over the summer.
“Of course everyone is stressed, and we don’t want to be egocentric and stuff, but sometimes we’re like, no one thinks about our situation,” Conings said.
Francolino Falbo Mansur was awarded money from the COVID-19 Emergency Student Assistance Fund.
Amorim Caldas said his experience can serve as a reminder of the value of having international students on campus.
“Better than ever, this is a time that we need to understand that culture is something important. Being cognizant of all the different points of views and all the different values you can get from your peers is something that is priceless,” Amorim Caldas said.
Francolino Falbo Mansur wanted to give a message to Creighton students and staff.
“I wish a lot of positivity, love, peace of mind and a lot of great things for everyone,” he said.