Visa Crunch

USA: Enrolment Touches Pre-Pandemic Levels At The University Of Mississippi Post Pandemic

Ever since the starting of Covid-19 nearly two years ago the study abroad program has surpassed their pre-pandemic rates since the beginning of this academic year for the University of Mississippi in the US.

Although all in-person study abroad programs were rescinded in the summer of 2020, many students went on to study abroad all through the fall of 2020.

Due to travel constraints, fewer students were sent, but participation remained high. Covid-19 has presented a host of difficulties for students travelling abroad, and due to the ongoing pandemic, students are subject to the rules and regulations of their host country.

“There are certain countries who require that visitors download a health app in order to come to campus for class, visit restaurants and nightclubs, go to museums and travel on public transit,” said Blair McElroy, Senior International Officer and Director of Study Abroad.

According to McElroy, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the University, both suggest that all international students get inoculated before studying abroad. “Unvaccinated people not only endanger their own health, but they also endanger the local community in the host country who may not have easy access to vaccines as we do in the United States,” McElroy said. “We are so privileged to be able to protect ourselves and others and still travel internationally by getting vaccinated against Covid-19, for free.”

This semester, 34 students are studying abroad. Noah Hubbard, a senior with a triple major in accounting, international studies, and Spanish, is currently studying in Bilbao, Spain. Many of Hubbard’s issues stem from his inability to enter Spain. However, once he arrived, life became much easier. Hubbard’s application was delayed because the US consulate switched to a mail system for student visas. “I had lots of extra delays due to shipping,” Hubbard said. “I also got rejected twice and had to apply a third time, which may have not happened had I had an appointment at the consulate where I had all of my documents with me.”

In the case of Covid-19, Spain needed only proof of vaccination instead of a negative Covid-19 test. Hubbard claims that Spain is more lenient than the United States, requiring only proof of vaccination. There are 94 people applying in the spring of 2022.

A junior international studies major, Olivia Rychlak, will spend the spring semester in Aix-en-Provence, France. Rychlak is a member of the Croft Institute, which requires all members to spend at least one semester abroad. She is presently learning French as her primary language. Rychlak stated that the most difficult challenge she has faced thus far has been ensuring that all of her paperwork for her visa was in order. Rychlak’s passport, fortunately, was up to date due to recent travels. The Passport Agency, on the other hand, had a backlog. To travel abroad for an extended period of time, all students must obtain a student visa.

Atlanta, Georgia, is the closest consulate to Oxford, Mississippi.

“Over Thanksgiving break one of my days, while I have family in town, I’ll be spending it going to Atlanta doing a visa interview process where I have to provide lots of documents printed out,” Rychlak said. “It’s a pretty long and inconvenient process having to travel that far, but it’s necessary to study abroad.”

Even though Rychlak will not study abroad until the spring, approximately 95 applicants will travel during winter break. Although there are some obstacles that students must overcome in order to travel to their home country, the delay and documents obtained are well worth the effort. “Spain has been very interesting for me so far. I am really glad I pushed myself to study abroad even though getting the visa was really tough and nerve-wracking,” Hubbard said.

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