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While the lives of many college students across the United States have been disrupted by the COVID-19 pandemic, a new study from the University of Missouri found that international college students from Africa were among the hardest hit academically.

The pandemic has seriously affected their nonimmigrant status, as travel restrictions, limited employment opportunities, and concerns about family members so it was difficult to go home foreign students to focus on his academic studies. The findings can help universities target more individualized support to vulnerable populations during a crisis, given that the problems faced by these students may be different from the problems associated with general a student population.

“For MU international students, especially those of us from Africa, the pandemic has been very difficult for us, given how far we were from our families,” said Ifeolu David, a doctoral student in the MU School of Health Professions and lead author of the study. “With all the restrictions on our visa status and limited employment opportunities, you can imagine how the pandemic has affected our mental health and academic focus, given our limited social support network.”

David, who came from Sierra Leone to study at MU, partnered with Wilson Maji, an assistant professor in the MU School of Health Professions, to interview 15 international students of African descent at MU about how the pandemic has affected their college education.

“Some international students are required to complete certain internships to meet graduation requirements. International students are also only allowed on-campus employment to meet visa eligibility requirements given their nonimmigrant status. The pandemic took away many of those who entered. person didn’t have the option, so it was difficult,” David said. “Study was difficult because we were regularly calling our families back home to check on them in a completely different time zone, which disrupted routine of the day and it was hard to focus on academics.’

Magee added that opportunities for internships and research presentations at conferences have suddenly ended, and deadlines for international students planning to graduate have been delayed, leading to an often complicated and time-consuming process of renewing visa status.

“Almost 20 years ago, I came to the United States as an international student from Zimbabwe, so helping this vulnerable group of students is very personal for me,” Maji said. “MU has made great strides in diversity, equity and inclusion, and we want to contribute even more to those goals. International students may be in the same race as domestic students, but they start from a different starting point, given the challenges they have. Our main goal is to improve their well-being and reduce barriers while studying in the United States.”

The researchers said the findings could help university administrators promote or consider more flexible policies regarding visa regulations and on-campus employment opportunities during the crisis. Policymakers can promote or consider a faster and more efficient process for international students to become American citizens so that they can effectively contribute to and benefit from the American economy.

“As an international student from Africa, I was able to connect and resonate with the experiences of the participants in this study,” said David. “By giving international students a voice, we can learn more about their experiences and challenges to ultimately improve their well-being here at MU and across the country.”

“COVID-19 and Higher Education: A Qualitative Study of the Academic Experiences of African International Students in the Midwest” was recently published in Applied research on quality of life. The study was co-authored by Omasola Kehinde, Gashaye Tefera, Kelechi Onyeka and Ideatia Harvey of the MU School of Health Professionals. Enid Schatz of the MU School of Public Health is Ifeolu David’s supervisor.

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Additional information:
Ifeolu David et al., COVID-19 and Higher Education: A Qualitative Study of the Academic Experiences of African International Students in the Midwest, Applied research on quality of life (2022). DOI: 10.1007/s11482-022-10095-3

Citation: COVID-19 Pandemic Hurts African International Students’ Academic Experience, Study Finds (October 13, 2022) Retrieved October 13, 2022, from -international. html

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