International students face tough decision for Thanksgiving break

Oct. 19, 2021, 10:48 p.m.

This Thanksgiving, many Stanford students with families living in the U.S. will choose to return home for the week-long break. However, traveling out of the U.S. may prove difficult for international students affected by new travel policies released by Stanford administrators.

Raghad Asiri ’25, an international student from Saudi Arabia, said that she does not plan to return home for Thanksgiving due to the brevity of the break. Nonetheless, she recognizes the difficulty that the new travel policy is causing for the international students who were previously looking forward to being reunited with their families and seeing their hometowns again toward the end of the fall quarter.

The Friday email from Dean of Students Mona Hicks and Executive Director of Vaden Health Services Jim Jacobs stated that “students who are not fully vaccinated and all students returning from international travel on or after Nov. 27, 2021, are required to restrict their activities.”

Students under conditions of restricted activity may only leave their residences for COVID-19 testing, medical care, laundry and trash, solo outdoor exercise, picking up meals and for grocery and food deliveries. Until specific testing procedures are satisfied, they cannot attend in-person classes during the last week of the fall quarter. There will be no special arrangements for students who cannot attend classes because of a Thanksgiving travel, Hicks and Jacobs wrote. 

Like Asiri, other students said they understood the reasoning behind the University’s travel decisions. However, they also raised concerns that international students who do decide to travel will be disadvantaged upon their return.  

Jose Luis Sabau ’22 said he believes the lack of accommodations for students under restricted activity is not fully addressing the needs of international students. But, he also said he found it fair that people should restrict their on-campus activities until they prove that they do not have COVID-19, which could affect the rest of the Stanford community. 

“I think the University should try to support students who have made plans beforehand to travel internationally and at least try to ensure that there’s an online opportunity for those who have to restrict activities,” Sabau said. “That’s what I believe would be ideal.”

The restricted activity will also make it difficult for international students to plan their Thanksgiving break, said Vernita Zhai ’25, who is from Shanghai. Zhai will stay on campus over Thanksgiving break, citing China’s current two-week mandatory quarantine policy for travelers as her reason for not returning home. 

“Students are deciding between choosing to spend time back at home with their family and then having to miss out on classes versus missing out on the opportunity to return home and not being affected academically,” Zhai said. “I understand why the policy specifically differentiates between domestic and international travel, since I think that one’s risk of being exposed to COVID-19 would be greater the longer the distance they travel.”

Despite the difficulties it presents, Zhai said that the policy seems reasonable overall, as it aims to ensure the collective well-being of everyone in the Stanford community. 

Enkhjin Munkhbayar is a beat reporter in the News section covering international students. Contact Enkhjin at news ‘at’

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