Plattsburgh State senior Lina Nguyen was excited to return for her final semester at PSUC. And then, all of the sudden, she wasn’t.
Nguyen was forced to take a semester off at PSUC after being told by the Russian government that her permanent residency and visa documents weren’t ready by the end of August; thus making her unable to return to the U.S.
The U.S. diplomatic mission to Russia made an announcement Aug. 21: “Due to the Russian government-imposed cap on U.S. diplomatic personnel in Russia, all nonimmigrant visa operations across Russia will be suspended on Aug. 23. Operations will resume in Moscow on Sept. 1; visa operations at the U.S. consulates will remain suspended indefinitely. Currently, scheduled appointments will be cancelled and applicants will be provided instructions on how to reschedule.”
When Nguyen returned to her hometown, Moscow Russia, she sent in her paperwork immediately at the end of May. The government promised that she would be all set by Aug. 29 at the latest.
“There’s a company that helps me do the documents, but they told me on that date (Aug. 29), I can receive my documents back to go to America,” she said. “On the day, they told me they weren’t ready, and I feel like in Russia, they don’t truly appreciate international people. They don’t really take in account of us.”
Nguyen said she definitely thinks the issues with Russia and America at the time played a role in her embassy not having her paperwork ready.
“In Russia, they closed a lot of U.S embassies, so you have a lot more people that want to get their visa, and they have to go to Moscow,” Nguyen said.
Nguyen does have a point as tension between Russia and the U.S. has led to several closings and retaliations in both countries. Russia had been ordered to close its San Francisco consulate and two trade missions in response to “unwarranted” Russian action, according to the US. The consulate and annexes were closed following Moscow’s reduction of U.S. diplomatic staff in Russia during the month of July, according to BBC News.
Nguyen even recalled a friend of hers who resided in Tula, Russia, who went to another college internationally. Her friend went to renew her visa in the middle of August.
“When you renew, you don’t have to go through an interview, but this time, they told her she had to go to Moscow City and from there go through the interview process,” she said.
Nguyen’s friend was told that the nearest date they could renew her visa was Sept. 1.
Nguyen said she feels like the government doesn’t take into account of all the students having to study abroad. She said on top of the government claiming they had too many visas to renew, many employees were fired.
In August, Russia demanded that the U.S.reduce its diplomatic staff to equal the 455 Russian diplomats working in theU.S., including at the mission to the United Nations, according to The New York Times.
“In Moscow, they fired more than 60 percent of their employees, so they’re taking forever to make visas for students to go study abroad,” she said.
At first, Nguyen was going to only take a week off from school, but when the government still didn’t have her paperwork complete for her permanent residency in Moscow, she was forced to choose another path. Her parents told her not to take the semester off considering she had already paid for tuition and housing. However, when she finally decided to, she called the Global Education Office and spoke with GEO Assistant Director Amelia Lushia.
Lushia said at first she was surprised to hear that Nguyen had to take the semester off. Lushia filled out the withdrawal paperwork for Nguyen and sent it over to Student Accounts.
“GEO told me that if I notify them by the second week, I’d get back 70 percent of my tuition back,” Nguyen said. “Thankfully, the school understood my problem, they gave the full refund. GEO is very good and fast with helping international students.”
Besides expenses, Nguyen said she is worried about her major in particular. As a management information systems and business administration major, she said it is difficult to figure out what classes to take. She needs 300 level classes in this semester in order to take 400 level classes in the spring, so she expressed her frustrations with figuring out her schedule. She said being an international student definitely entails other problems as well.
“I have to come back every year to show that I live there. Also, every year, we have to renew our visas. I have a Vietnamese passport. Every year, we deal with problems,” she said.
For now, Nguyen is trying to get an internship and job to gain more work experience. She said she’s trying to get experience while she can and might even travel if she has time.
“Lina is resilient. It’s unfortunate that she’s caught up in something that’s not her fault,” Lushia said.
Email Kavita Singh at firstname.lastname@example.org