International college students from Africa faced unique challenges during the pandemic, study says (Canva image)
A new study from the University of Missouri details the unique challenges faced by international college students from Africa during the COVID-19 pandemic.
While the pandemic posed challenges to all college students, the study’s lead author, Ifeolu David, himself an international doctoral student from Sierra Leone, said that African students faced intense pressures.
“The pandemic was very hard for us given how far away we were from our families,” David said. “With all the restrictions regarding our visa status and limited employment opportunities, you can imagine how the pandemic impacted our mental health and academic focus given our limited social support network.”
David, working with Mizzou public health professor Wilson Majee, interviewed African-born international students at the university about how the pandemic impacted their college experience.
Students reported that they were unable to work internships required for graduation, as their visas allow them to work only on campus, but many in-person opportunities on campus were eliminated due to pandemic concerns. Delays in graduation meant that students had to extend their visas, which can be a complicated and time-consuming process.
Other students reported that their academic performance was impacted, as they were worried for their families back home and often disrupted their schedules in order to call home at extreme hours.
“International students may be running the same race as domestic students, but they are running from a different starting point given the challenges they must overcome,” Majee said.
The authors said that they hoped the findings could influence university administrators to advocate for more flexible visa regulations and provide more employment opportunities on campus during times of crisis.
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