Coronavirus

Change in COVID-19 protocols for world travel impacts IU international students

BLOOMINGTON, Ind. (WISH) — President Joe Biden’s new COVID-19 safety protocols for international travel officially went into effect Monday.

That means anyone entering the United States must provide proof of a negative test within one day of their flight, regardless of vaccination status. The changes were announced last week after the omicron variant was detected in the United States.

Indiana University said the updated regulations impact international students ahead of the holidays. The university’s International Services Office said fewer international students plan to go home because there are too many travel uncertainties.

John Wilkerson, the office’s interim vice president, said, at this point in the coronavirus pandemic, some students haven’t seen their families in close to two years. “We’ve seen and experienced students being stranded either in the United States or abroad.”

Wilkerson said many decided to not leave the country for winter break partially because of the uncertainties surrounding the omicron variant, and it’s also just what international students have become accustomed to.

“That’s really the very specific challenge that international students face is it’s not so simple for student who returns home for the holiday break to Singapore and right now they can enter Singapore, but what if two weeks from now, they can’t? So, it’s not quite the same as the student who is trying to make that same trip to San Diego to go home for the holidays,” Wilkerson said.

Wilkerson said throughout the pandemic, in some ways, international students have had to pay closer attention to changing protocols than other students.

“They have come to rely on the information that we’re putting out, that the university is sharing with them, in terms of how best protect themselves and to make sure that they’re aware of what challenges they may face and if in fact they do face those challenges, how to best utilize IU as a resource to best help them overcome them,” Wilkerson said.

According to Indiana University’s website, more than 7,200 international students from 164 countries are enrolled at the university. Wilkerson said how many will stick around through winter break is unknown but added IU’s COVID response team continues to ramp up resources to prepare.

“The literal social distancing that has happened has exacerbated a lot of feelings of anxiety and loneliness and, you know, everything that all of us have felt at some degree. But, imagine having those experiences, feeling those feelings, those stresses, those anxieties and being displaced from your loved ones for years at a time,” Wilkerson said.

A spokesperson from IU tells News 8 the school is encouraging booster shots and will host a clinic for students in the next few days. However, so far, there are no plans to require boosters at the university.