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Pandemic Creates Double Crisis For International College Students on Central, South Coasts

Landry Irumva is an international student at California Lutheran University in Thousand Oaks who, like many international students have been struggling with the impacts of the pandemic

The coronavirus crisis has made it a surreal year for all of us on the Central and South Coasts.  But, it’s been especially difficult for some international college students in the region.  Not only are they facing the health risks, it's made it harder for them to continue their educations, and in some case impossible to visit their families.

Landry Irumva  is a student at California Lutheran University in Thousand Oaks.  He’s from Rwanda.  The 22-year-old is a junior, studying political science.  He says there are times when he won’t see another person in his residence hall for weeks.

He finished his spring semester at Cal Lutheran online, as did college students all over the region when in-person classes were suspended.  But, many international students faced big questions.  In some cases, their homelands closed their doors to people, even their citizens, to try to stop the spread of the virus.  And then, would the U.S. government allow them to return to continue their educations in America?

So, he decided to stay in the U.S.  Irumva says some of his friends who returned to their homelands have been unable to return to the United States.  Then, another twist:  The Trump Administration in July that international students who were taking all of their classes online would have to leave the U.S.  After a wave of anger from universities and many states, plus a series of lawsuits, the president backed down and rescinded the order.

But, COVID-19 then disrupted his plans again for the fall semester.  he had been set to take part in an overseas study program in Oxford, England which included sidebar trips to other European countries.

So, the Cal Lutheran student is living on campus in Thousand Oaks.  We walk to the front of his residence hall.  We can’t go inside, because visitors are banned to as a COVID-19 safety precaution.  On a nice day, he’ll bring his laptop outside.  But, even though he lives on campus, his computer is his classroom.  He says Zoom is his friend.

Despite everything that’s happened,  hesays he’s glad he’s here in the U.S., and at Cal Lutheran.  He’s set to graduate next fall.  He’s hoping by then in-classes will resume, and he can even have a traditional graduation.  After that, the plan is law school.

He says despite some bad memories about how the pandemic has disrupted his plans, he’s still glad he came to the United States, and feels like he's getting a good education.

Cal Lutheran is the parent of KCLU Radio.

Lance Orozco has been News Director of KCLU since 2001, providing award-winning coverage of some of the biggest news events in the region, including the Thomas and Woolsey brush fires, the deadly Montecito debris flow, the Borderline Bar and Grill attack, and Ronald Reagan's funeral. 
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