Published by the Students of Johns Hopkins since 1896
November 30, 2023


International students faced more roadblocks to travel than domestic students. 

With Thanksgiving just around the corner, students discussed their travel plans for the break in interviews with The News-Letter. With an entire week off for break, many students have time to travel home and back. Domestic students consistently reported that COVID-19 restrictions have had very little impact on their plans over break.

Freshman Achyuth Parola plans to return home to Michigan, citing his family's vaccination status as the reason this feels safe. 

“I’m vaccinated, [and] my family’s vaccinated,” he said. “COVID[-19] concerns haven’t really been a thought that entered my mind regarding Thanksgiving Break.”

According to Dr. Anthony Fauci, fully vaccinated families can safely gather for the holidays. He recommended that fully vaccinated individuals continue to wear masks in crowded or indoor public settings, as COVID-19 cases are still high.

Freshman Ayush Bajaj is planning to return to his home in the Bay Area. 

“I bought the tickets well in advance, so [since my] coming to campus, I knew that I would spend Thanksgiving, and Christmas actually, at home,” he said.

International students gave more varied responses. For students like sophomore Krishna Sargur, originally from Bangalore, India, health and safety concerns did not play a significant role in the decision to leave campus over break. 

Sargur plans to visit his family in North Carolina and New Jersey instead of returning home. He reasoned that the duration of Thanksgiving Break is not long enough for an international flight to India. 

On longer breaks, such as winter break, Sargur is willing to return home despite the state of the pandemic. 

“I don’t think COVID[-19 will] really impact my decision there,” he said.

Sophomore Heejae Kim shared in an email to The News-Letter that she plans to return to her home in South Korea but is anxious about travel requirements for reentering her home country. 

“I have to get a [PCR] test 72 hours before the flight, and I’m a bit anxious that I won’t be able to get the test result on time,” she wrote. “Since this is the first time traveling back to my country from the States, I am anxious because I am not sure whether I have met all the requirements for testing even though I looked up for the requirements thoroughly. I hope there won’t be any conflicts at the airport due to [COVID-19].”

Kim added that she also had to prepare documentation confirming her vaccination status and other information in accordance with quarantining rules in South Korea.

Sophomore Veric Tan, an international student from Singapore, feels that the main obstacle to returning home was the length of the break rather than safety concerns. He also noted that COVID-19 restrictions have loosened significantly and explained that new policies have allowed Singaporeans to return home more quickly.

“A few months ago, [Singapore] made the U.S. a green lane, so you can go back to Singapore without quarantining if you’re vaccinated,” he said. “Over the summer, I went back home and the green lane hadn’t been established yet so I had to quarantine for 21 days.”

Sophomore Feiyang Huang, another international student from Singapore, told The News-Letter that though COVID-19 did not impact his decision to visit New York City over the break, the green-lane policy still impacted his decision to go home.

“There’re specific flight plans I have to board in order to be able to go home without extensive quarantine, and that requires me to travel to another part of the U.S. to board a flight to go back home.”

He added that these complexities deterred him from returning home.

For freshman Julia Mendes, originally from Brazil, returning home was never the plan, but COVID-19 still got in the way of her arrangements for the break. In an interview with The News-Letter, she explained that her family was originally planning to come to the U.S., but because of the pandemic, her parents could not renew their visas.

“My original plan was actually for my parents to come visit me but because travel restrictions were lifted so late, it’d still be a bit difficult for them to come from Brazil,” she said. “They wanted to come here but because of COVID[-19], I made alternate plans.”

Instead, Mendes plans to spend time in New York City. Though she is concerned about health safety in the city, she does not plan on going to crowded areas.

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