Skip to main content

While being fully immersed in a remote volunteer experience with a specific organization and community, it can be easy to forget how the rest of the world can impact the work that you are doing. This article, written by Valerie Strauss of The Washington Post, illustrates how the current political sphere and global crisis could affect the community I am working with for my independent project in ways that I may not have realized or expected. In this article, Strauss explains some of the challenges that international students are facing right now because of the current political sphere of the United States. The article also mentions how the Trump administration is working towards limiting, and maybe completely banning, Chinese graduate students from getting visas to study and potentially eliminating the OPT program for international students after graduation.


How does this article relate to the work that I’m doing this summer? Through the student interviews that I’ve been conducting as part of my project, many students have spoken about the uncertainty surrounding this upcoming fall semester because of the precarious state of their visas, border openings, and travel restrictions. Many of the students I’ve spoken with are relying on the OPT program to stay in the United States after graduation, so the decisions of the Trump administration could have huge implications for MPOWER’s students. I also spoke with many Duke students from China earlier in my project. If Chinese students are prohibited from attending graduate school in the US, many of these students will be very affected, as well. This article largely reinforced my beliefs about my work: on top of the situational and financial challenges that COVID-19 has created for international students, they also have the extra stress of having to worry about visas, and subsequently their entire education, being revoked. It’s a difficult time for this demographic of students, for sure.

This article represents the narrative that international students bring immense value to not only the US economy, but also to our society in form of diverse thought and work environment, so ensuring that they are able to continue studying in the US is crucial. Strauss also does a great job explaining both sides of the debate surrounding international students; she cites the opinions of two Senators – one in favor of increased restriction of international students and one against. However, my one critique of the article is that Strauss could have used her platform to paint a more complete picture of the struggles of international students during the COVID-19 pandemic. She mentions that these policy changes could amplify the already stressful environment but never mentions the large financial barriers that many students would still face even if the Trump administration made no policy changes.

Based on my work with MPOWER, I’ve realized that although visa and immigration changes are a large concern for many students, there are also several other current, pressing issues that international students face that might have been interesting for Strauss to include.