Now things are even more difficult. Stanford currently plans to study which students are on campus each semester to maintain social distance. First-year students will be on campus in the fall and summer, which means Fang will study remotely for one semester and will have to leave the United States during that period.
Fang is now weighing whether he wants to pay about $ 60,000 a year to study distance from China. If he does, there won’t be all the unplanned interactions and conversations that usually come with school experience.
To live with insecurity
So far, 29-year-old Chinese national Chen Na has not been affected by Monday’s changes.
At New York University (NYU), where Chen is halfway through a two-year master’s degree, her courses will be a combination of online and offline when the fall semester begins.
“I can’t stop thinking about it,” she said. “I just feel powerless and vulnerable. I will try to stay here legally.”
If the courses are only online, transferring to another university will not be an option – few other schools offer the Interactive Telecommunications Program that Chen teaches.
Instead, she will have to try to return to China, which would be expensive.
When Chen first heard the rule change, she felt desensitized, as there were a number of other policies that made things more difficult for international students.
“We don’t have a lot of power here, and then sometimes we fall victim to all these political games,” Chen said. “I’m really aware of my foreign status here, I know I’m a foreigner. I don’t have to see growing hostility from other people, but I really feel like a policy that crushes us.”
Difficulty coming home
Some students may find it more difficult to go home than others.
Teresa Cardinal Brown, director of immigration and cross-border policy at the Bipartisan Policy Center, says a student may not be able to go home at all.
“The bigger problem is that some of these countries have travel restrictions and they can’t go home, so what do they do then?” She added. “It’s a conundrum for a lot of students.”
Maitri Parsana, who has just completed her third year in biological sciences at Buffalo University in New York, does not know how she would return to India if she were forced to leave.
Her university has said it will offer hybrid courses, but the 22-year-old from Gujarat still does not know whether her specific classes will be online or offline.
Parsana says there are no flights to India, but hopes her government will arrange flights to bring stranded students home.
“I’m definitely scared. I really don’t know what to do. I’ve already been stressed about my school and now I have to emphasize something else,” she said, adding that the United States seems to be focusing on international students rather than solving real problems, such as the pandemic.
“We just feel like we’re being pushed away from this country for no reason.”
Impacts on business
Not only students can be hurt by Monday’s decision. It could also affect the US economy.
If students are forced to leave the country, they may be reluctant to continue paying tuition fees to study remotely from another time zone.
Nicholas Henderson, co-founder and director of Essai Education, a Delhi-based institute for test preparation and counseling for Indian students who want to study in the United States, said the regulations could prompt colleges to change their policies to hybrid models, e.g. to help people stay.
“I think what Covid has shown is that universities are willing to work with students,” he said.
But even so, there is a risk that US policies will prevent prospective students from choosing to study in the United States.
When Parsana first came to the United States, she planned to try to settle there. She now says she does not want to live in the United States and would encourage students who want to study abroad to consider another country, such as Australia or Canada.
“I don’t know what they are trying to do (the US government) because their economy will go to ashes if they do that,” Parsana said. “If they continue to make such rules, not many people will come here for their education.”
If international students are sent home early, not only their education will be affected. Students might miss out on job opportunities – often one of the reasons they would choose to study in the United States.
A 24-year-old student at a South Korean university says he is “disappointed” that he may miss the scheme on Monday due to a change in policy. CNN has agreed not to use its real name because of its privacy concerns.
He has only one semester of his degree, and when he signed up for his courses, they were all offline. Now they have changed to online courses and it looks like he will either have to go home or transfer to another university for his final semester.
“I have no idea what’s going on,” he said. “I just renewed my house contract.”
If he returns home, he will not qualify for a temporary employment scheme – and if he wants to work in the United States, he will probably have to find a company to sponsor his visa.
“I’m so disappointed,” he said. “I just want to get some opportunities to at least compete.”
Chen faces a similar situation. Before the pandemic, she planned to stay in the United States and find a job after graduating in 2021. But now, Chen is weighing whether the United States is the best place after all.
“I wonder if it’s really worth going through all this … instead of finding a country that values me more,” she said.
CNN’s Esha Mitra contributed to this story from New Delhi.