As one might expect, life can be difficult for international students during the COVID-19 pandemic. With varying levels of travel restrictions among different countries, international travel is challenging, if not impossible. In light of this, Clarke University welcomed three new transfer students, Vinicius Aspahan, Matheus Castro, and Joao Fernandes, and a returning student, Victor de Lima Tosi, from Brazil for the Spring 2021 semester. They arrived on campus on Wednesday, February 10, joining Lucas Bordini, who opted to stay in Dubuque for the winter break rather than make the journey home to Brazil. Due to a COVID-related Presidential Proclamation, non-US citizens were not permitted to fly directly from Brazil to the USA. As a result, it appeared the students’ journey to continue to study in the states might need to be put on hold. The only possibility available was for the Brazilian students to fly to another country, quarantine for two weeks, and get a COVID test with a negative result before boarding a plane to the USA.
After discussion with Alicia Schmitt, Associate Director of Admissions, and Mike Paye, Men’s Soccer Coach, the students determined their best option was to fly from Brazil, connect to a plane in Panama City, then fly to Mexico to quarantine for two weeks. Alicia helped them find a safe hotel in Mexico to quarantine & receive a COVID test before flying to Chicago. The students were excited and relieved to have this assistance. They felt lucky that everything was falling into place. After their two-week quarantine, the hotel in Mexico helped them get the COVID test they needed to show when they boarded the American Airlines flight in Mexico. When they arrived in Chicago, they spent a short time in customs, where all their necessary documents were checked and approved. They were greeted by Coach Mike and set out to Dubuque.
The faculty at Clarke and academic support services staff were instrumental in assisting the students with virtual learning so they would be able to keep up with their classes during quarantine. The students are all business majors and share some similar classes. They share the goal of being academically successful and helping their teammates on the Clarke Soccer team. These students all agree that Coach Mike is like a second dad to them. He supports them and is always willing to lend a helping hand. The biggest challenge they faced on their trip from Brazil to the USA was quarantining in their hotel room for the two-week period. They were able to eat, study and relax together, but it was challenging not to be able to go out during that time. It was helpful for the transfer students to have Victor traveling with them. He was able to help prepare them for their new life at Clarke. Their classmates and teammates are helping them with their adjustment to life in the US and at Clarke. Renee Smith, Assistant Director of Engagement & Intercultural Programs provided an International Student Orientation session to assist with the transition to Clarke.
Another stark difference they experienced was the severe cold weather that greeted them upon their arrival in the states. The three transfer students had previously studied at Southeastern Community College in Burlington, Iowa but grew used to living in Brazil again and enjoying the warm weather. They all agreed that it took time to readjust to the winter cold of Iowa. It appears that the warmth of the Clarke community is assisting them in overcoming the weather.