The lifted travel ban for Chinese students opens a new future

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Sunny Yu

More than one year had passed since many international students left campus.

Imagine putting on layers of face masks, eye goggles, and protective clothing just to stay in a foreign country for 14 days before entering the United States, then facing an additional round of two-week quarantine before being able to see the familiar faces on campus 

The dystopian nightmare had been the inevitable reality for many international students whose schools opened under the pandemic. In a time when physical detachment extends to the realm of international travelit takes more than just money, time, risks, and courage to travel across the ocean. 

Fortunately, the recent ease of travel ban for Chinese students signals a hopeful break from the seclusion that many international students have unavoidably experienced Zooming from home each day while watching their peers participate in study groups and sports in a community that seems so far away. 

“[The travel ban lift] is a good sign for foreign students that have been trapped outside the US,” Chloe Wang (‘24) said. “Personally, I feel much less pressured and more secured about returning to school this fall, which I’m super excited about.” 

Therefore, the good news that international students from China, Brazil, and Iran can qualify for the National Interest Exception (NIE) and enter directly into the nation brought waves of discussion and excitement among international students at Webb, who have been away from campus for more than a year now or those who have never stepped on campus. 

I think it is a relief that we don’t have to go to a third country before flying to the US,” Catherine Li (‘22) said. “I am excited to see my friends after a year of being apart. 

In a world slowly recovering from the pandemic, students feel hopeful that international travel will be safer and easier. 

The news is especially exciting for international freshmen students who are now a step closer to a real, in-person high school experience. 

Nevertheless, the change in policy does not undo the havoc of the pandemic, and many uncertainties remain as students wait for answers from the school administration, the state, as well as the larger global climate. Problems associated with visa, safety concerns, and the aftermath of returning to campus concern students and parents alike. 

I am also worried about safety issues and plans for break and whether if there are still quarantine requirements for international travels,” Catherine said. 

I don’t have that many concerns myself, however my mom is more worried about US-China relationships and the possibility of difficult international travels in the future,” Michael Fu (‘24) said. Also, plus the COVID situation is still not so positive in some regions around the globe, so it’s hard to say whether the vaccination would work or not. 

To freshmen like Chloe, questions of student visa and appointments with the US embassy still linger, along with many other unknowns waiting for answers and assurance from the US administration. 

As the end of the year comes around, the sadness of participating online in annual ceremonies and Webb traditions challenges the school and students to look to the future — the lift of the travel ban creates the perfect momentum to begin thinking about a life back at Webb. 

Honestly I didn’t care about the travel ban lift because I’ve really enjoyed online learning and staying at home,” Season Li (‘23) said. I have grown used to the good food and the social life here. If I do return in August, I would definitely continue enjoying my good life at home now. 

While the new policy might not immediately guarantee a full return of students, it means that changes are happening, and a new equilibrium will soon replace the pandemic desperation and loss. For one thing, it is time to get ready for change.