UTA's international students grapple with travel restrictions due to COVID-19

Informations systems junior Mitul Kachhla sits at his desk in his bedroom May 12 in his on-campus apartment. Kachhla said besides homework, he’s been keeping busy by cooking and watching movies.

Industrial engineering sophomore Arafaa Khan had plans to fly back to Dubai, United Arab Emirates, to meet her parents on Friday. However, the country suspended all flights from many countries, including the United States, amid the COVID-19 crisis.

Travel restrictions and nationwide lockdowns are among the steps many countries have taken to maintain social distancing and limit the spread of COVID-19.

Khan, who contacts her parents regularly, said malls, cinema halls and religious places in Dubai have shut down during the lockdown.

However, unlike the United States, Dubai has strict rules such as issuing fines for people who are seen outside without a valid permit for work or emergency situations, Khan said. The country is now slowly reopening restaurants and businesses with restrictions.

“My parents even told me you can’t go to the grocery store for more than three days in a row,” she said.

The United Arab Emirates currently has 19,661 positive COVID-19 cases, according to data retrieved Tuesday evening from Johns Hopkins University.

Rather than being alone at her apartment, being with family during this situation would be more comforting and securing, Khan said.

Her parents understand the situation that many international students are in, including her sister who is in the U.K. Like herself, her sister can’t travel back home.

“They are pretty much understanding of the situation, but of course they do keep a check on me,” Khan said. “They call me almost every day, stay connected and get updates.”

Information systems junior Mitul Kachhla is in a similar situation. He planned to travel back home to Gujarat, India, during the summer, but the country currently has a travel ban that has shut down airports.

India’s government has imposed serious lockdown restrictions to control the spread of coronavirus and protect its population, Kachhla said. Currently, India has 70,768 confirmed COVID-19 cases, according to data retrieved Monday afternoon from Johns Hopkins University.

Kachhla, who is an only child, said his parents are worried as the number of coronavirus cases rise in the U.S.

“They call twice in a day and tell me ‘Don’t go outside, please keep social distancing,’” Kachhla said.

While many UTA students could not go back home, public health senior Clarence McCarthy-Grogan was fortunate enough to go home just in time.

“It’s been great being back with my family because I never have too many opportunities to be able to spend a lot of time with my parents,” he said in an email.

McCarthy-Grogan remained in isolation for two weeks after getting back to Darwin, Northern Territory Australia, he said.

In the Northern Territory Australia, people are following social distancing rules, he said. As of Friday, there are only 29 confirmed cases in the Northern Territory Australia, according to data retrieved Monday afternoon from Johns Hopkins University.

“There is still a lot of uncertainty on what the remainder of 2020 looks like, but the main thing is that we are all keeping well and we can only worry about what we can control,” McCarthy-Grogan said.

The 15-hour time difference is exhausting for him, but he keeps himself motivated to finish the semester off as strong as he can.

“I am not sure when I will be able to return. It will all depend on the International Travel Ban from Australia,” he said.

Business freshman Elodie Tessier also traveled back home to Quebec, Canada, to be with her family. Canada currently has 71,139 confirmed COVID-19 cases, according to data retrieved Monday afternoon from Johns Hopkins University.

Tessier said being around family is easier in this situation. Staying in the states would be more challenging.

Professors have done a great job adjusting classes online, but she finds it challenging to use the online tutoring center, Tessier said. She prefers to ask questions directly to people and receive immediate answers.

Tessier said she hopes to return to UTA by September.

“I don’t even know if I will be able to come back as of right now,” she said. “There’s a lot of question[s] with no answer.”



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