Eye on KELOLAND: Studying abroad during a pandemic

Eye on KELOLAND

COVID-19 caused plenty of challenges for college students, including those traveling across international lines.

According to the Institute of International Education, new international student enrollment in the US and online outside of the country decreased by 43 percent in the fall of last year.

When Raghav Sriram Yogeeswari visited the United States nearly five years ago, he knew he wanted to attend college here.

“I still can’t explain what happened, but that was the moment when I decided this is the place where I could pursue my college, probably explore opportunities,” Augustana University Freshman Raghav Sriram Yogeeswari said.

The freshman from India was supposed to start his first semester at Augustana University in the fall of 2020, but COVID-19 delayed that.

“The U.S. consulate was closed back then, so I had to wait a little longer to get my visa and also for the flights to be open from India to the U.S.,” Sriram Yogeeswari said.

He ended up beginning his studies in Sioux Falls in January. He’s not the only one who has faced challenges.

While the number of international students at Augustana has fluctuated over the past several years, the university saw a significant drop in the fall of 2020.

According to Augustana University, 127 international students were enrolled in the fall of 2019.

Compare that with 79 in the fall of 2020.

“It’s obviously been significantly impacted for a variety of reasons. We’ve had embassies worldwide that have been closed for obvious reasons, travel restrictions, a number of factors that have gone into that,” Augustana University assistant director of international admission Wade Gemar said.

More international students have joined since then.

“Fortunately as things kind of opened up a little bit and more embassies worldwide have opened, travel restrictions have been lifted we’ve been able to welcome about 15 more degree-seeking international students in J-term or spring semester,” Gemar said.

Assistant director of international admission Wade Gemar says it’s an encouraging trend.

“I think next year it will be really positive response. I think people are excited about studying in the United States globally,” Gemar said.

And he’s excited to welcome them to campus.

“With international students, they’re so adventurous. They’re willing to go halfway across the world to pursue an education and that’s something that I think I have the best job on campus because I get to work with these students and they make our community better,” Gemar said.

Sriram Yogeeswari says he’s feeling confident about the opportunities before him.

“I’m super excited to be here. I’ve been here for a month, but I already feel like I’m home,” Sriram Yogeeswari said.

Currently, he’s an engineering/physics major, but he’s also exploring other areas such as philosophy and theatre.

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