When Visa Means Virus. The Pandemic Paradox for Students

by on Jul 11, 2020
universities going online

As the next semester at universities in the USA is set to begin in August, the countries’ visa rules state that if international students opt for online classes, or if their university offers only online classes, then their visas would stand canceled and they would need to leave the country.

This is a landmark impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, which was bound to happen, as the world undergoes a revolution of sorts in different spheres of life, particularly work and education.

Harvard University has led the shift, and will offer online teaching completely till a vaccine is found for controlling coronavirus. All students, including those in the campus, will have to attend online classes. Likewise other colleges and universities have started going online.

International students account for 5.5% of all students enrolled in 2019. About 200,000 Indian students enrolled in universities in the US, in 2019, the largest after China.

The new visa rules are forcing students to consider opting for in-person classes in order to retain their visas. But that would mean risking contracting the killer virus. In short, the choice boils down to risk contracting the virus to hold the visa, or give up the visa and be safe by attending online classes from the home country.

This, on the other hand, points to the possibility that more international students can enroll in universities in the USA, if they are offering online classes. And they can do this without the need for visas or the costs associated with relocation and initial startup expenses of living in a new country.

By extension, this points to the possibility that anyone in the world can study in any university, anywhere in the world, without leaving their home country or their home.

This would turn out to be one of the positive impacts of the pandemic.

Rewinding a bit…

An asteroid hit wiped out 70% of large animal species on the earth 65 million years back.

The cognitive revolution 70,000 years back led to the extinction of the neanderthal humans, as well as mammoths, sloths, large marsupials across the continents. This happened over a period of 30,000 to 40,000 years since a cognitive ability developed in Homo Sapiens 70,000 years back, that helped them communicate and collaborate with fellow sapiens to successfully hunt and drive to extinction their neanderthal cousins and various fauna.

The agricultural revolution 12,000 years back made humans slaves on the field, apart from ‘gifting’ the human race with diabetes! Apparently, humans were happier and ate healthier food prior to the agricultural revolution.

The industrial revolution 250 years back led to automation of manual work, obesity, and made humans slaves of consumerism. Not to forget – the plastic it littered the ecosystem with.

The IT revolution in the 21st century and the financial development brought by it has led to excessive consumerism, traffic, automobile pollution. We are standing at the brink of a major climate change threat to the planet.

In contrast to the preceding major revolutions in the history of the world and the history of humankind, the COVID-19 revolution induced not by a giant asteroid or by clever and ingenious humans, but by a microscopic creature seems to be far more positive.

Going by the ongoing impact of the pandemic on work and education, it looks like the trends are in a desirable direction that includes more inclusiveness afforded by the online nature of work and education as it needs to be conducted in the present times, under the pressure of the virus.

Humankind refused to learn from our mistakes in the past. Now coronavirus is forcing us to correct some of them.