‘We have to change our plans almost every day,’ Temple international students struggle with new visa rules

Temple University in Philadelphia (Photo by Brendan O'Kane via Flickr Commons)

Like college students across the country, Nienke Oerlemans, had been hoping to rejoin her classmates at Temple University when classes resumed this fall.

But with a recent Trump administration order stripping international students of their visas if their classes move entirely online, Oerlemans, a Dutch national and rising junior, isn’t sure what she’s going to do.

“The only option would be to quarantine in a non-Schengen, or non-banned country, for 14 days and then fly to the U.S. With news is constantly coming out, we have to change our plans almost every day,” Oerlemans said. “I want to make a decision before July 25. Right now, I also have my internship at home, and have to finish that first before flying back.”

Under the administration’s rules, students must enroll for a full-time program of study combining in-person and online instruction to take the minimum number of online classes required to make normal progress in their degree. New international students are still eligible to apply for visas if their consulate services are available.

Oerlemans, who plays on Temple’s field hockey squad, told the Capital-Star that she’s “been working with academic advisors from both school and Temple athletics in order to meet these requirements.

“Right now it looks like it is working out and I was able to register for 3 hybrid/in person-classes,” Oerlemans continued. “This affects my United States experience. When I left the United States in March, I did not expect this to be a problem. Before going to the U.S, I had a lot of expectations, and this was definitely not a part of it.”

Veronika Novakova, a Temple graduate student from the Czech Republic, told the Capital-Star that the administration’s move is counterproductive because international students provide American universities with a big share of their revenue.

Unlike Oerlemans, however, Novakova’s experience studying in the U.S. has been virtual from the beginning.

“I joined Temple University right before COVID-19, so my classes were moved online. I have no chance to experience in-person classes which was one of the main reasons why I came there,” she told the Capital-Star.

Like Oerlemans, she mentioned how hard it is to have some plan because everything changes day by day.

“I am a member of a couple of groups full of international students. We keep each other positive and updated with news,” Novakova said. “Our plan is to wait till the end of July to see if the government makes some announcements if not we will try to go to the country outside of the Schengen Area and then fly to the US.”

On Wednesday, Harvard University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology sued the Trump administration over the visa change.

Oerlemans and Novakova said they’re grateful for the support shown by their field hockey teammates and coaches, and U.S friends. They have done so by reaching out to them both personally and posting on their social media pages.

“We are family and we are in touch all the time during this crazy situation, keeping each other motivated and positive,” Novakova said.

Correspondent Michala Butler, of Harrisburg, is a junior communications student at Temple University in Philadelphia. Follow her one Twitter, @MickiB16