Morgan State’s international student population left to face a new reality after the coronavirus

For many international students, the decision to migrate back to their home countries was hard. But so is not getting back into the United States.

Inzamamul Islam, a Morgan State graduate student and electrical and computer engineering major, migrated from Bangladesh in February and experienced 40 days of face-to-face instruction before the university transitioned to virtual learning in March. 

Now, the 27-year-old Bangladesh native is unable to return to his country in fear that he may not be able to get back into the United States. With few friendships because of the coronavirus, he’s left with the lonely reality of online instruction.

“Once the class is over, there’s really no communication until the following class,” he said. 

Islam’s situation isn’t rare, especially within the Morgan community. According to a 2017 Morgan State University Cultural Diversity Report, Morgan has established over 30 international relationships and currently enrolls approximately 950 international students from over 60 countries.

Moving to a new country can be difficult for anyone. But the stakes are higher for an international student who left behind family and friends for education, especially if they’re the first in their family to do so.

But since the coronavirus struck, many are left to make a decision similar to Islam, to stay in America or travel back to their home country.

Rosemarie Igbo, the director of the Office of International Student and Faculty Services said she’s received several phone calls since the virus struck. She began reaching out to her international students and facilitating virtual meetings.

“The international students are quite stressed and the uncertainty of everything is very overwhelming,” she said.

For some students, the feeling of uncertainty stems from not being able to make the first step towards their higher education and travel to the United States for school. 

Rebecca Oni, 23, currently resides in Lagos, Nigeria and is one of several students whose challenge is rooted in location. The fall semester would’ve been her first time attending Morgan to pursue a master’s degree.

But because of the pandemic, she was unable to come into the United States and was left to attend classes more than 6,000 miles away.

Not only is Oni navigating virtual learning, but she is also working against a drastic time difference. She attends classes from 11 p.m. to 2 a.m. in Lagos.

Oni, who would describe herself as a naturally attentive student, said she finds herself procrastinating more but is hopeful that the pandemic will subside enough to return to face-to-face instruction in the spring semester.   

“The value of higher education has depreciated since the pandemic began earlier this year, Oni said.“It takes away the consciousness of learning.”