UNR International Program Returns After COVID Hiatus

Owen Christopher interviews current and former international students about missing the program when it abruptly stopped and its recent revival.

Markers representing countries represented by foreign students at UNR.

Opportunities Cut Short

In early 2020 it wasn’t clear what was going to happen to foreign students studying at UNR. Mandates were put in place, businesses had to close down, and the death toll skyrocketed. With new travel related rules and restrictions being implemented every day, colleges were forced to make a decision.

They decided to send students home. “We were only halfway through the semester… which is a shame”, said former international student Reina Iwamoto. “All I can remember is how sad I was getting on the plane to go back to Japan… I was ugly crying.”

Reina was sent back to her home in Japan nearly six months earlier than she expected. She’s continuing to study English there, but now without access to native speakers. Her and her fellow international students weren’t able to experience a full school year in America. However, this decision was not unjustified.

These students were sent home countrywide. People were dying and no one knew how to effectively combat the virus. International students would have to wait for another opportunity to broaden their horizons.

The University started inviting international students to study at its campus in the middle of the 19th century. Since then, students from all over the world have taken the opportunity to come to Reno and study in America. Over 80 countries have sent students to this campus, including China, Japan, India, Saudi Arabia, and Canada.

“Our goal is to build bridges of understanding and to foster global engagement through international exchanges,“ explained the Office of International Students and Scholars. Their goal is to “foster intercultural understanding and enhance the skills of our students to be successful in an increasingly interconnected world.”

International student Jorge Cassigeran studying in his dorm room for an upcoming final exam.

A Brighter Present

After a year of fighting the virus with vaccines, and guidelines like social distancing and masking, a new group of students were given the opportunity to study at the University for the fall 2021 semester.

“I’m so excited to be here,” said international student Jorge Cassigeran. “Coming from Guam, I’ve always wanted to learn about America and Reno is such a fun town”.

Jorge is studying music and arrived at the university in time for the Fall 2021 semester. He’s one of over 600 international students invited from all over the world after the program’s revival.

“I think Reno is a great town to study music in… compared to Guam there’s a lot more people active in the local scene,” Jorge said. “It also helps that the university lets me borrow their equipment and practice on campus and that everyone is so friendly.”

All new international students must complete a formal immigration check-in, along with a slew of new medical paperwork. The university also provides them with free COVID testing and has laid out their quarantine guidelines here.

With this school year coming to a close and a new batch of students coming in for the fall 2022 semester, welcoming foreign students to the Reno campus is back in full swing.

Reporting by Owen Christopher for the Reynolds Sandbox

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