I remember January in 2017 when Donald Trump was inaugurated as the President of the United States. It was shortly after I attended my high school interviews. And back then, I was not even expecting to come to the US for the foreseeable future, let alone reckon with the concerns that would arise from my status as an international student in the coming years. In fact, I was still under the impression that the US was a welcoming nation to people of all backgrounds. As hard as it might be to believe now, this was the favorable reputation the US had overseas, specifically for me in Australia.
My positive impression of the US collapsed quite swiftly as the months went on, with one controversial act after another smearing its image overseas. Trump and his administration have made their stance clear: foreigners are not welcome, and anyone who appears “foreign” should endure the same treatment. With his track record of racist commentary, xenophobic policies, and nationalistic tendencies, Trump has amplified the unwelcoming atmosphere of this country. In the past couple of years, the US has experienced a decline in international student enrollment. While this decrease may not be the direct result of the image Trump has set upon the US, his bigoted rhetoric does not help. If I was applying from overseas to a school this year, I would not consider coming to the US. The risk and instability compounded with the exorbitant cost decrease the appeal of studying abroad for foreign nationals such as myself.
The recent ICE directive has also caused a stir, mandating that international students must attend in-person classes, otherwise, they must leave the country or transfer schools. This is yet another instance of the US pushing international students into a precarious situation in which their efforts to thrive here have been overridden at a moment’s notice. Members of my past summer program were disturbed by this prospect, as their livelihoods depend on the prospect of remaining in the US and their institutions. WeChat, a means of communication that I use, has also undergone restrictions. Personally, this platform is vital for communication since international fares are too costly for day-to-day conversations.
This negative sentiment affects all international students, not just those from nations that are at odds with the US. It permeates all layers of American society; as much as various communities seek to eradicate it, discomfort still lingers in the air. In a way, I find myself caught up in untimeliness. My high school experience here starts and, hopefully, ends with Trump’s presidency. Otherwise, his next term will coincide with my college years as well. And who knows what can happen in yet another four years.