International students navigate studies during COVID-19

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Jacqueline Flores

Maria Shroyer, in her home town La Paz, Mexico.

Jaqueline Flores, Reporter

The COVID-19 pandemic placed international students in unknown territory for the 2020-2021 school year at California Lutheran University.

When the campus closed to residential students in the spring, Maria Shroyer, a junior at Cal Lutheran, had to move back to her home in La Paz, Mexico.

“I asked for the leave of absence because I didn’t know if [school] was going to be online or not so I didn’t want to wait for them to decide,” Shroyer said. Since I took the leave of absence, my scholarship is protected for a year.”

Shroyer said she decided not to continue online classes with Cal Lutheran this fall, but she is still moving toward her degree.

“I was afraid of taking online classes with CLU… I didn’t want to risk my GPA, so that’s why I’m taking classes online here [at a university] in Mexico,” Shroyer said.

Daniele Zhou, a senior at Cal Lutheran, said he is taking class from 4:30 p.m. to 1 a.m. in Florence, Italy on Tuesdays and Thursdays this semester.

“My parents don’t really feel safe to go back [to America]; we’ll see till next semester,” Zhou said.

Juanita Hall, Senior Director for the Office of International Students and Scholars, said that Cal Lutheran “has made a commitment to international students” that they have a place to live on campus despite the circumstances.

“It’s been challenging with the loss of on-campus employment since they are not allowed to work off campus like domestic students. It’s been emotionally isolating for them too, especially being so far from home and away from both family and friends,” Hall said. “Some have experienced travel bans that make it impossible for them to return home.”

Shroyer said she and her fellow international students were compelled to purchase last-minute plane tickets for international flights, costing much more than a typical domestic flight. In addition, she said she experienced financial losses due to flight cancellations and rushed bookings.

Shroyer said that she had planned on studying abroad this semester, before COVID-19 changed her plans.

“Right now I would be in Spain,” Shroyer said. “It was so sad because it was my dream.”