3 Students, 2 States, 1 Dream: In a time of uncertainty, students remember what brought them to the U.S. in the first place

3 Students, 2 States, 1 Dream:  In a time of uncertainty, students remember what brought them to the U.S. in the first place

The beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic brought difficult decisions to the forefront of many international students’ minds.  Should they return home?  What if they couldn’t return to the United States?  What is the plan if they stay in the U.S.?  Through these difficult decisions, three students remind themselves why they chose to study in this country in the first place, validating the value of getting through tough situations like this. 

First, meet Melissa.  From France, Melissa is a Language Studies major at Modesto Junior College in California.  Like many others in her position, the pandemic caused Melissa to debate going back home, especially since it had been a full year since she last saw her family.  In thinking about what would be best for her, she decided to hold off going home and remain in the United States.

“I remembered all the sacrifices that [my family] made by helping me study here and decided to pursue my education without interruption.  COVID-19 will have caused me to either potentially lose my visa and delay my studies, or not see my family for 2 years.”

-Melissa Garcia, Modesto Junior College (CA)


Melissa acknowledges the loneliness and homesickness that “are often felt by international students… when times get tough.”  When thinking about how this summer should have been spent back home with family instead of remaining in the United States, due to the pandemic, Melissa urges students like her to, “try to remember why you got where you are now.”   For her, remembering the great happiness she felt when receiving her acceptance letter from her university helps her focus on her end goal of, “studying successfully in the US and making the memories of a lifetime.” 

When her flight was cancelled and she had to rethink her plans to stay in the U.S. over the summer, Melissa was overwhelmed with stress and fear, but she knows it was the safe thing for her and her family.  She wants to share with those in similar situations as hers that, “Facetime is our best friend!” And remember that, “we are lucky to be able to explore another culture and live our dreams!

Next, meet Ann, another international student studying in California.  From India, Ann is an IT Management major set to graduate in April 2021.  Just like Melissa, Ann’s flight home was cancelled, and due to India’s shutdown, Ann was forced to stay in the United States for the time being, causing her “whole plan [to be] thrown off.”  Ann’s plan was to probably return home after graduating in the United States, as she has business back in India and a job secured.  Acknowledging the financial strain and overall uncertainty of the current circumstances, Ann shares why she enjoys studying in the United States and her advice for those coming to study here after her.   

“I study in San Francisco, it’s like this blend of all these different cultures; everyone is different, it’s very exciting. I like diversity.”

Ann, Golden Gate University (CA)

For Ann, the diversity and immersion of various cultures is her favorite part of studying in the United States, making the entire experience worth it.  She hopes to share this with others looking to study in the United States.  That, “for international students, it’s a culture shock, but embrace the difference.  Do your research… Be on top of things, it’s very different from the country you come from.”

The vast amount of diversity is a common theme for many students wanting to study in the United States.  For many students, it is often the exposure to so many different cultures that they are most grateful for.  Far from California, is Fernando.  As a J1 exchange student from Brazil, Fernando is studying at University of Arkansas’s Graduate school of physics, set to graduate with his PhD in 2021. 

For Fernando, the pandemic has not changed his plan to return to the United States after he graduates in Brazil at the end of his program for the start of his career.  For the time being, Fernando still lives on his school’s campus for the summer.  He acknowledges how his school “really care[s] about students, [they] have a food pantry available free for all the students in need, several offices are offering online appointments, [they] have online fitness classes and there are health services available.”  Beyond these resources, and the great educational experience Fernando has had thus far, what he truly has enjoyed the most about his time in the United States is the diversity. 

“My favorite thing about studying in U.S. is the immersion in their national culture. Well beyond the academic studies, I have learned the idiom, accents, culinary, music and many other traditions.”

Fernando Maia de Oliveira, University of Arkansas (AR)

From the stories of Melissa, Ann, and Fernando, we see how important it is stay motivated by our long-term goals, while also remembering the very best parts of studying in the United States that make the challenge worthwhile. 

As ISO continues to share more stories of students like you, feel free to join in on the conversation.  Email monica@isoa.org today to share your story and be featured in our next article!

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