Washington Evening Journal
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International students struggle with University closure
Many international students fear for their future
Mar. 30, 2023 12:32 pm
MT. PLEASANT — Following Iowa Wesleyan University’s announcing their plans to close at the end of May, many international students find themselves faced with unique hurdles covered in many uncertainties.
Sepana Katwal, an international nursing student from Nepal, said she worried about breaking the news to her family back home.
“I don't want to give them a lot of stress, so, I didn't tell my mom,” she said. “So, I just called my brother, and he's so worried about me. So he just text my friend, and he told me just not leave her side.”
These students said they worried about the closure’s impact for their visas, and by extension their lives stateside.
According to IW’s website, their international student program serves over 100 international students from over 30 different countries.
“They promise us we’d stay in this university,” Sepana Katwal, an international nursing student from Nepal said. “They said they will give us opportunity in Henry County … Right now, I don’t know what to believe.”
Prapti Oprety, another international nursing student and a friend of Katwal’s, said she wasn’t sure how or if her credits would transfer to another school, or whether her visa would stay in-effect if she left her current institution.
“We don’t see any options,” she said.
“I studied in a different country myself and have lived in other countries and thought about my own child being in another country and the anxiety and stress level that you will feel when you don't know all the rules and the regulations,” DeWayne Frazier, IW Provost and leader in the International Program, said.
“I totally empathize with them, and they're going to get a strong level of support, as they always have here at Iowa Wesleyn but everything's initial right now, so they don't have all their information, and we're going to help them,” Frazier said.
At the press briefing, school officials said they would take care to assist international students in accessing arranged “teach-out agreements” that would allow them to complete their degrees for similar price points at other schools. The list so far includes William Penn University, Upper Iowa University, University of Dubuque and Culver-Stockton College.
“My understanding is that the international students have the same opportunity to transfer as all of our traditional, domestic students,” Plunkett said. “There’s just some legal process with their visas, and the legal opportunity to transfer, but they will have the same opportunity.”
According to Frazier, the International Program staff informed students Wednesday of an informative meeting to following the next day.
“I’m going to explain all the rules and regulations when it comes to transferring immigration records, all the different information for their scholarship programs, and how teach-out schools work,” he said.
Frazier expressed the importance of communicating with this group of students.
“When you think about it, many of them are second language learners and you are throwing out all these terms that we struggle with as Americans, as native English speakers,” Frazier said. “When you throw it all out there and they're in a different culture and a different language, there's no doubt I’d feel exactly the same way.”
“So, I completely sympathize empathize with them and I will do everything in my power to make sure that they get the information they need to be successful because that's what I do,” he said.
Some — Katwal included — said they felt betrayed by the institution, and some felt specifically betrayed by Frazier.
This narrative comes from an announcement early in February of Frazier’s resignation as he prepares for his “dream job” as President of the American University of Nigeria.
Frazier said that he understood the students’ feelings, “Once they get past heartbreak, they're going to look for people to blame.”
According to the announcement telling students of Frazier’s resignation, however, he made his intent to leave the University known to the President Christine Plunkett at the beginning of the school year, well before the decision to close the institution.
“I didn't know they were going to vote,” Frazier said. “I didn't know what their vote is going to be.”
“Faculty didn't get any heads up before the students,” he said. “They got an hour before the board came down, because the board literally made that decision that morning. They could have went either way that morning, but they made the decision, and it's their decision, ultimately, not mine.”
Despite these feelings of hurt directed at Frazier, he plans to do his best for these students.
“At the end of the day, we're going to find ways that these students are going to be successful,” he said. “I mean, they're so bright, they're so intelligent, they're such creative young people that they would come all the way, some of them thousands upon thousands of miles to be here. So we owe it to them and we will provide them all the answers we possibly can.”