US move leaves M’sians in the lurch

PETALING JAYA: Malaysian students in the United States are feeling anxious following the country’s announcement of changes to temporary exemptions for international students taking online classes that will begin in August.

Students are in the dark as there is a lot of uncertainty because the new rulings by the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) are expected to have far-reaching implications on international students studying in the United States, especially those resuming lessons this fall semester.

Phel Kaur, who is studying Broadcasting and Electronic Communication Arts at the San Francisco State University, said she had to make arrangements to leave the United States should things fail to pan out.

She said she would have a handful of face-to-face classes but for the most part, the fall semester would be online.

“My (room) lease ends this month and I’ve been looking for new housing but because of this new rule, which my university has not given us clear guidelines on, I am unable to make arrangements for a new place,” she said.

She is worried this could affect her graduation, saying that if she had to do classes remotely, she would have to manage with the odd timing and possibly have less access to resources.

“I think it is unjust on all levels. International students are victims of circumstances beyond their control. We did not choose this pandemic nor was the university’s decision to operate remotely in our hands,” she said.

“So imposing this ruling just feels like our well-being is not taken into account.

“Besides, travelling at a time like this is not entirely safe,” she added.

According to the new ruling, international F-1 (academic) and M-1 (vocational) students attending schools operating entirely online may not take a full online course load and remain in the United States.

In the meantime, prospective students will not be issued visas and allowed to enter the country.

Shashwini Nair, who is studying aerospace engineering at Iowa State University, said she felt confused by the announcement.

She said it was causing unnecessary stress among international students.

Shahwini believes the new ruling would affect her, although her university has told students to wait for further announcements.

She is currently in Malaysia and does not know if she will be allowed to return in time for the new semester in mid-August.

She has yet to buy a flight ticket back to the United States and is awaiting further developments.

“I would definitely prefer to go back as I am supposed to graduate soon,” she said, adding that she had lab classes to complete.

At the time of writing, Wisma Putra has yet to respond to The Star’s request for comments.

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