international students
Online campaigns to facilitate their return to countries such as China and Australia have not yielded in a clear timeline nor plans for their return. Source: Hector Retamal/AFP

Frustrations continue to grow for international students unable to return to their universities abroad due to COVID-19 border restrictions. Online campaigns to facilitate their return to countries such as China and Australia have neither yielded clear timelines nor plans for their return. 

In a letter signed by over 20,000 undergraduate, graduate and medical school students of universities in China, Japan and Australia, they have asked the United Nations to intervene. “…we humbly request your help to make sure the governments of China, Australia and Japan will soon resume issuance of new visas for students,” read the letter.

“As international students, it is crucial for us to be physically present in our host countries since real language learning is only possible when immersed in the environment. Our inability to be present will result in detrimental effect on our learning, or been have a negative impact on our mental health as we will need to follow online courses with jet lag. Many of our graduate programmes in our host countries require the realisation of a thesis as a requisite to get the diploma. The thesis must be constantly checked and assessed by a university professor and in-person collaboration is essential to the quality of the work.” 

They add that PhD students need physical access to labs for their work as well as medical students who need labs and clinics for their clinical and internship years. “We are hoping for your kind decision to consider international students worthy of your help to make sure we can finally continue our lives and pursue our education,” said the letter.

International students want to return to China

International students locked out of China are also calling for more clarity from the Chinese authorities and help from their respective governments. According to Twitter, students in Pakistan had reportedly held an in-person protest outside the Islamabad National Press Club to galvanise the Pakistani government to solve their plight. Protesters held placards that read, “no more online classes” and “research can’t be done online.” Pakistani students had turned to Twitter to boost the hashtag, #ProtestOfIntlStudentsInIsb, lamenting that they cannot perform clinical practice and research work while abroad. 

Twitter user Shree tweeted: “I came here after so many days feeling depressed and low. We had meeting with our university dean he said that this year it’s not possible for us to return back. Now I feel hopeless, how long we have to wait (sic).” Other students are asking their respective ministers for help. “Dear @Asad_Umar, please raise the issue of Int’l students. Put us on the priority list for vaccination and negotiate with authorities to allow us to go back to China and for study. Our protest needs your attention,” said user Rabbi99 in a tweet, tagging Pakistani Federal Minister Asad Umar.