As Concord Academy plans to reopen in January, many students are beginning to consider their return plans for the spring semester. For some, it might be a quick decision, especially for those who live domestically and have easy access to campus. However, one group within the CA community has little to no options in their decisions: many international students, due to a variety of challenges, are unable to return in January. 

Wendi Wang ’22, a Chinese international student, said that she personally wishes to go back to CA, and one of the main reasons is that with the 13-hour time difference, she has to live a nocturnal life. However, whether or not she can go back is out of her control. The travel ban, implemented months ago through several executive orders, states that foreign nationals who have been in countries such as China, Brazil, and the U.K. during the past 14 days may not enter the United States. This means that in order to begin their boarding life at CA, Wendi and other affected international students have to fly to a country excluded from the list and quarantine for 14 days, and subsequently fly to the U.S. and quarantine for another two weeks. The challenge set by the sheer amount of time it takes to arrive at CA—an entire month—will likely stop many students from returning. 

Adding onto the problem of the travel ban are the availability and price of plane tickets and concerns for one’s own safety. As of the time of writing, there are about 200,000 new COVID cases everyday in the United States, while in many other countries, especially in Asia, the amount of daily cases does not exceed two digits. The experience of going to an airport and boarding a flight also entails potential exposure to the virus. With the knowledge that several cases occurred during CA’s past piloting program, some international students are worried about boarding due to health concerns. 

Another detail that potentially stalls international students returning plans is the fact that in order to live at CA, one has to have a guardian or friend who can pick them up when they are infected by COVID. This weighty responsibility excludes even close family friends from the list, as it entails being exposed to a COVID patient. Many international students don’t have guardians or friends on this level of intimacy in the U.S.; the lack of connections thus prevents them from staying for long term at CA. 

Confronted with endless challenges and difficulties, many international students at CA will have no option but to stay where they are for January. Some are considering going back after March break, while some have decided to not return at all for this school year. All we can hope for right now is that the state of the pandemic will ameliorate quickly and eventually ensure a safe return for those students.