When the University of Wyoming announced that it will resume in-person classes and re-open campus in the fall, international student Aina Farid Shah was worried. "At first I was shocked, because, isn't that unsafe?" she said.
But when U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) announced that it will temporarily exempt F-1 and M-1 visa holders from staying in the U.S. while attending only online classes, she felt slightly relieved for UW's campus re-opening plan.
In order to remain in lawful status, international students must take at least one in-person class, or transfer to another university that is operating in-person classes.
It's a lot to process, but Shah, who is from Malaysia, sees it as more time to plan logistics to relocate.
"It would be a very sad thing to happen. But if it is what you have to do, then I guess we have to do it too," she said. "But we're kind of lucky that our country's [Malaysia's] borders are still open to people coming into the country."
She said she's still in denial at the moment just because she has been living in Wyoming for two years. But she also feels privileged because if she were to go home, she can stay with her family, and have better job prospects.
"I don't know, it's mixed feelings. It's sad, it's confusing, being in denial… Also, we've been told by friends who work with ISS [Office of International Students & Scholars], they say, whatever happens, you just gotta be on your toes and be ready for anything basically," said Shah.
Shah is aware of the risks when it comes to staying as well.
"This coronavirus thing is scary. Anyone can get it, anyone can have it without symptoms. So it's kind of dangerous. I hear some people saying it's either you get COVID or you get deported," she said.
Looking into the future, Shah said there's no use in hoping. "I think at this point, it's more important for us to be ready for anything."
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