by Molly Motes, Michael Graham, Ren Okawa, and Brady Reis.
After a long, unexpected break due to the COVID-19 pandemic, UMSL is welcoming international students back to campus to begin fall 2021 semester and year-long exchanges, undergraduate and master’s degrees.
Prior to the start of the pandemic, international education applications had been at an all-time high for UMSL. Degree-seeking students and exchange students alike had been applying in the hundreds to come to get their education at UMSL. However, due to the pandemic, almost none of these students were able to actually come to UMSL.
As a result of travel bans, closed embassies, and uncertain futures, application numbers began dropping again. Within all of UMSL’s campuses, 2020 saw only about 25 new international students.
Liane Constantine explaining her recruitment efforts
As the world started to adjust to the COVID-19 pandemic, UMSL also began adapting its programs and set into motion plans to prepare UMSL’s campus for the return of international students. Zoom began as a primary method used by UMSL to introduce students to the campus. Liane Constantine, the Executive Director and Senior International Officer of UMSL Global, discussed the sharp decrease in the number of international students on campus. According to Constantine, this led to more than 1,400 applications to UMSL from international students for the Fall 2021 semester; 700 of which were accepted to UMSL. Unfortunately, due to closed embassies causing significant delays in the visa processes for many countries, only about 120 of those students were able to make it in time for their classes at UMSL this semester, but even more are expected to come in the future as embassies catch up on the backlogged students.
Even students who were accepted but got stuck in lines at embassies have been able to enroll in online classes through UMSL, and UMSL continues to take advantage of the increasing prominence of virtual events for recruiting and social events for international students. In fact, Constantine claimed that through these Zoom events, UMSL has entered a “better position to prepare students to come here” since students can learn even more about UMSL and St. Louis before they even pack.
A short video highlighting the International Student atmosphere
The students who have been admitted and have made it to UMSL’s campus are extremely happy to have finally arrived back on campus. One of these students is Marc Cejudo, an exchange student coming from Abat Oliba CEU University in Barcelona, Spain. Cejudo was drawn to UMSL for its big, beautiful campus. Originally, Cejudo had planned on studying abroad in Washington D.C. starting in the spring of 2021, but he decided opening the UMSL campus in the fall would be a much better option for him considering the pandemic.
Cejudo says that coming to UMSL was, “quite easy,” due to all of the support UMSL Global’s team offered him as he came, and he wanted to give special thanks to Annie Hyde, an international programs advisor from UMSL Global, for all her kindness in the process. Additionally, he appreciated all of the events organized in the orientation week for international students. “We got to know each other. We played soccer, we played some other activities, it was really nice,” he said.
Cejudo is still adjusting to the different structures of classes from Spain to the United States of America, but he has enjoyed this adjustment, different schedules, and professors. Likewise, professors are happy to see the return of international students onto the campus as well. Teaching Professor of English for Academic Purposes Denise Mussman in particular felt happy to see more international students back in her classroom.
Dr. Mussman discussing international student classroom sizes
Dr. Mussman strongly feels like study abroad in America, particularly at UMSL, international students can get a very hands-on education both inside and outside the classroom. “There is just so much here to help students succeed,” Dr. Mussman stated. Many students have excitedly begun talking to her about how much they have already learned about American culture and how shocked they are with the kindness of the UMSL community.
Similarly, Dr. Mussman believes that having international students back on campus will enrich the lives of all students on UMSL’s campus. Mussman said “I’m so happy to have international students come back. We need their diversity, their different perspectives, their academic backgrounds. They add so much to scholarship, to this campus.”
Many UMSL students and student organizations are also happy to see the return of international students to the campus. Vice-president of the UMSL Japan-America Student Association, Cecelia Fischer, mentioned that the student organization has many events targeted towards international students not just from Japan, but from all different countries. “We are a club based in cultural appreciation.” She goes on to mention even though the name implies it is about Japan and America, their events have always pulled all different types of students who want to experience American culture.
The UMSL community as a whole is extremely happy to welcome international students back to campus safely, and international students are happily settling into the fall 2021 semester at UMSL.