International students overcome COVID-19 setbacks


Morgan Givens/University of West

UWF faculty, staff and students embraced and shared a diverse range of art, food, music and performances from countries and cultures around the world during the annual Global Block Party at the Cannon Green on Thursday, April 11, 2019. Global Block Party celebrates the departments and student groups that have helped to move the needle on diversity issues at UWF.

Lexi Miller, Staff Writer

Every student preparing to attend college this fall was met with a series of unforeseen circumstances due to the COVID-19 outbreak. For international students, the setbacks were only amplified.

The University of West Florida is home to a diversified community of students, with many coming from all over the world to attend classes right here in Pensacola. “It (UWF) is one of the best public universities in the south,” International student, Isadora Guine de Souza said.

Attending college internationally can take months, if not years to prepare for. When news broke of the coronavirus outbreak, international students’ plans were stopped in their tracks. 

“I had everything planned for Fall 2020. I bought a plane ticket, booked a dorm, had classes face to face and much more,” Souza said. 

Once international students got word that they would not be able to come to campus, they had no choice but to do the best they could in preparing for online classes.

International students who were already residing in the United States faced the possibility of getting sent back to their home countries.  

In early July, the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) announced that any international students who were to attend classes online must transfer to another school that offers in-person classes or return to their home country

“I was a little scared,” Evandro Da Conceicao said. “I thought I would have to give up on some of my dreams.”

Conceicao, who is from Brazil, was residing in Pensacola prior to the COVID outbreak. 

Colleges across the country immediately filed lawsuits against ICE in response to the announcement. Shortly after the lawsuits started piling in, ICE reversed the policy.

International students have to attend class virtually this semester and they aren’t able to experience the Florida lifestyle or partake in new experiences. “It’s not a missed semester because I’m taking online classes, but I feel like I’m missing out on a lot of good experiences I could be living,” Souza said. “It was also a little difficult to adapt to the online platform I had never used.”

Even though the University is practicing social distancing and is holding a large number of classes online, students on campus are still able to interact with each other, as long as they follow the COVID guidelines. 

Students living on campus are still able to experience a new chapter in their lives as they discover what life away from home entails. “Not being able to interact with other people adds one extra layer of difficulty,” Conceicao said.

Attending school virtually from thousands of miles away has left students facing unique challenges. “I am not practicing my English here in Brazil, it would be the same if I were in Florida,” Breno Nettuzzi said.

Though they are nations away, UWF’s international students are still harboring the Argo spirit. “It may have seemed overwhelming at first, but we’ll be alright,” Conceicao said. 

The International Affairs office did everything they could to keep international students up to date on how they would be attending classes this fall. 

The thing keeping many international students motivated is the idea of getting to be apart of campus life in the future. “I can’t wait to be at UWF,” Souza said. 

Several international students are hopeful that they will be able to join the Argo nation in person in the new year. “Keep studying and soon we will be able to go to UWF and have incredible times,” Souza said.

These students are looking forward to all of the new experiences and life skills that coming to campus will have to offer.