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‘It was scary’: International student stuck in U.S amid COVID-19 travel restrictions

 When the coronavirus pandemic made its way to the United States earlier this year, schools and colleges across the country had to shut down — including Westminster College. This created challenges for students figuring out their next move.

International students were among the many who faced great difficulties after campuses closed.

“As an international student, I’m only allowed to work on campus,” said senior Val Scopello, an Italian student double majoring in physics and mathematics. “I have to support myself and pay rent just from that, so having that shut down […] was a shut door.”

In the United States, international students can attend college by obtaining a student visa. There are three types of visas, and they each differ in where an individual can or cannot work while studying in the U.S. 

Scopello said she has the F1 visa, which allows her to be in the country for four years and only allows her to work an on-campus job. With campus closed, she had nowhere else to work.

“I couldn’t pay my rent all of a sudden,” she said. “I couldn’t go to class, I couldn’t do anything. It was scary.”

Fortunately, after the initial panic and closures of organizations across the country, Scopello said she received some good news.

“Luckily, Westminster got my back,” she said. 

Scopello said after not working for roughly three weeks, she was able to receive the unemployment stimulus offered through the college, and soon after began working remotely for the disability services office. 

The Forum spoke with Scopello about her experience amid the COVID-19 travel restrictions in our latest episode of Westminster Stories. You can listen on our Spotify, SoundCloud or Apple Podcasts. 


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Adrianna Franco is a junior communication major who loves photography and all things vintage. With an interest in public relations, Adrianna continues to explore all her options within the field of communications. In her spare time, you can find the old soul taking pictures, painting or watching a classic Audrey Hepburn film.

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