Editor’s be aware: This story accommodates quotes from a scholar who wished to stay nameless for concern of political repercussions. Their id is understood to The Each day. 

Javier Chavez returns to his dorm after an extended day. Regardless of feeling exhausted, he’s grateful — right this moment, he didn’t encounter an surprising set off from his previous which generally makes him cry out of nowhere. Nonetheless, the loneliness of being removed from residence doesn’t go away. He lastly will get to sit down down in his silent room after working 20 hours this week on high of his courses, 12 in an internship that brings hope for his future profession and eight hours within the eating corridor to get extra money. 

It’s payday as soon as once more, and in contrast to most college students, Chavez will ship most of his paycheck to his household again in Caracas, Venezuela, the place an ongoing financial disaster wracks the nation. 

Within the OU worldwide scholar neighborhood, college students who come from battle zones stated their faculty experiences are extremely impacted by the social, political and financial circumstances of their native international locations, regardless of at the moment dwelling hundreds of miles from residence.


A junior civil engineering scholar at OU, Chavez stated a standard battle OU worldwide college students from battle zones face is the monetary burden, which is compounded by worrying for his or her households at residence.

“I feel the largest problem (for a global scholar coming from a battle zone), along with the emotional problem, is the monetary half,” Chavez stated. “I’m saving cash on a regular basis in case one thing occurs to my household in Venezuela. I reside in frugality — dwelling with what I want.”

Chavez left Venezuela in 2016 to review the Worldwide Baccalaureate at UWC Atlantic School in the UK — a 2-year diploma program at one of many 18 United World Schools all over the world — not imagining “an enormous change” in Venezuela. Now, he describes the present state of affairs of his nation as “hopeless.” 

“After I left, there was a drop within the value of oil and all the economic system went horrible,” Chavez stated. “Once I went again in 2017, there was lots of civil unrest. Younger residents protesting in Caracas have been taken by the Nationwide Military (of Venezuela).”

Venezuela is at the moment experiencing a large-scale socioeconomic and political disaster underneath the socialist authorities of Nicolás Maduro, the successor to long-time dictator Hugo Chávez. Since his election in 2013, the nation has skilled a decline of their economic system, suppression of political dissidents and in depth violations of human rights, which have resulted in huge emigration.

Syria and Iran

In 2015, Ali Al Kayher discovered himself standing on the airport in Damascus, Syria, sure that his life was about to vary eternally. He knew it was finest for him to simply accept the scholarship to attend Pearson School UWC in Canada, however stated he’s nonetheless remorseful right this moment for leaving his household behind. He turned again to try his father and his brother, questioning if that was the final time. 

Since 2016, Al Kayher has not seen his household in individual. Now, he’s an OU senior double majoring in funds and administration and data programs. Regardless of the adjustments in his life, the continuing Syrian Civil Warfare continues to be threatening the lives of his household every day. 

Al Kayher stated understanding his household just isn’t dwelling as safely as he’s at OU usually leaves him feeling accountable.

“Again residence, we do not have something however to snigger at our distress, in order that’s simply the way in which I really feel my feelings,” Al Kayher stated. “I left Syria, however there’s the survivor’s guilt. Even when I made it (out of Syria), I nonetheless really feel responsible of dwelling a superb life.”

Even throughout his final journey residence, Al Kayher stated some in his native nation started to view him otherwise after leaving.

“Individuals again residence seen me as a foreigner only for dwelling overseas for a 12 months, so it wasn’t the traditional ‘going residence,’” Al Kayher stated. “It was so completely different.”

One other OU scholar from Iran additionally spoke about their monetary struggles after steady sanctions from the U.S. on Iranian oil, which has resulted in a deep financial recession in Iran. Though each of their dad and mom have excessive ranges of schooling, the coed stated they don’t even make as much as $200 monthly. 

“Sanctions on medication and inflation damage individuals,” the coed stated. “Individuals (thought sanctions) have been for security, (however) it wasn’t hurting individuals in energy (who) would nonetheless have the identical privileges. It was hurting us.” 

Each college students stated as a result of they’re from Iran and Syria, that they had points when first making an attempt to open a Chase checking account within the U.S. For Al Khayer, it was “petrifying” when he was informed he wanted a inexperienced card or everlasting residence to open an account, since it’s not the case for different worldwide college students. He stored his checking account with MidFirst solely. 

“I am simply making an attempt to place my cash with you,” Al Khayer stated he recalled pondering in the course of the expertise. “It simply looks as if institutional discrimination for me.”

When in search of educational alternatives at OU, college students who come from battle zones must consider not solely their monetary state of affairs, however the authorized circumstances between their international locations and the U.S. For seniors, future job functions could be restricted too, Al Khayer stated. 

“I used to be given a number of scholarships to go research overseas in several international locations however I rejected them (as a result of) I can not come again to the U.S. (If I go away),” Al Khayer stated. “There are alternatives, however I additionally know I am unable to attain them.”


After three years of making use of, Laura Bertran lastly arrived in Bogotá, Colombia for her U.S. scholar visa interview in 2018. Though the U.S. reopened its embassy in Havana — Cuba’s capital — in 2015, its employees has since remained severely restricted and the embassy is now not processing visas.  

When her U.S. scholar visa was accepted, Bertran was nervous. She may solely take into consideration every part she was abandoning —  her 50-cent journeys to the seaside in Havana, serving to her mother prepare dinner dinner with the $20 their household made monthly.

The economics senior stated though she left behind the “political pressure” and “little or no decisions” of Cuba when she arrived at OU, she nonetheless goals of “giving the entire world” to her household again residence, a far-distant want for the island nation which has been in a trade-embargo with the U.S. since 1962.

Generally, “loneliness” was the phrase all OU college students used when talking concerning the emotional impression of coming from battle zones. Bertran stated she feels the burden of being an immigrant day by day, together with the “ethical obligation” to succeed she feels she owes to her household who introduced her to the U.S.

Bertran stated for her, the results of each choice she makes can have ramifications past merely what would possibly occur to herself. 

“What makes me fear is normally by no means about schoolwork, it is at all times about decisions. When making a choice, what are the repercussions on my household and the subsequent generations?” Bertran stated. “It is like a paradox of dwelling right here. I (first) take into consideration my household, associates and individuals who can not afford to get their piece of bread, have a pleasant bathe or sleep with electrical energy.”

Bertran stated she would like to be a part of the financial change of Cuba sooner or later — transfer again to Havana and use her research in economics for the event of her personal nation. Whereas there’s a “lengthy approach to go,” she stated, she needs to recover from “the imposter syndrome” of an immigrant of “not with the ability to take pleasure in issues that you just earn.”

‘I really feel like a survivor’ 

Regardless of the difficulties they face, OU worldwide college students from battle zones have discovered emotional and monetary help whereas at college by means of a number of scholar associations, together with the Affiliation Mates of Venezuela, the Iranian Pupil Affiliation and others. 

Bertran additionally stated she was grateful she obtained to know the UWC neighborhood at OU.

“Assembly different worldwide college students who’re fighting the identical issues has been the largest life changer right here,” Bertran stated. 

Chavez stated though college students from completely different battle zones can relate to one another greater than others, the nuances concerned in several regional points — and to what extent completely different college students have felt the brunt of their respective conflicts or crises — continues to be broadly assorted.

“I might perhaps perceive higher than different individuals, however there are such a lot of particulars lacking,” Chavez stated. “It’s like if they’ve an damage in a special a part of their physique. I can relate to feeling ache too however I don’t know the way dangerous their damage is.”

Though Al Kayhed is satisfied he received’t return to Syria once more, he hopes his household may very well be collectively sooner or later. Chavez, who shares the identical conviction, stated he’s ready for freedom to return like “a miracle.” 

Chavez stated the hardships he has confronted have compelled him to study shortly and adapt to altering circumstances.

“I really feel like a survivor,” Chavez stated. “My Venezuelan id has made me stronger and has compelled me to study lots of issues that I would not have realized in any other case.

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