Story+ Project

Hardship and Resilience: Experiences of International Students During COVID-19


Story+ 2021 | Hardship and Resilience: Experiences of International Students During COVID-19

In light of anti-immigrant and “America First” policies, the last four years have been incredibly difficult for international students.  The COVID-19 pandemic further exposed the racial and socio-economic inequality on our campuses.  While the majority of the international students returned to their home countries or otherwise found safe accommodations with close friends or extended family in the U.S., a small number of students remained in residence on campus because of travel restrictions, limited financial resources, lack of reliable internet access back home, or health and safety concerns.  Students who remained on campus had to adjust quickly to online learning and social support available under conditions of lockdown, social distancing, and a limited student affairs presence – all of which was different from what the international students expected when they made the decision to study in the U.S. 

While these students faced difficult personal and educational circumstances, they also showed remarkable resilience.  The proposed project is to research, document, and tell the stories of 15 international undergraduates who remained in campus residence in North Carolina during the pandemic.  The goals of the proposed project are: 1) to learn more about the curricular and co-curricular experiences of international undergraduates who remained at institutions with a strong residence life component in North Carolina during the pandemic; 2) to find out what strategies these students used to respond and cope with the pandemic; 3) to document the student experiences for our institutional records; and 4) to learn how we can better support our most vulnerable international students.

Skills Undergraduate

  • Active listening
  • Organizational skills
  • Ability to analyze and synthesize information
  • Skills to communicate with people from different cultural backgrounds
  • Be able to be flexible and work as a part of the team
  • Ability to speak and understand another language other than English is preferred, although not required
Project Sponsor(s): 

Li-Chen Chin, Assistant Vice President for Intercultural Programs, Duke University

Lisa Giragosian, Director of International House, Duke University

Collaborators from Project Partner Schools:

Thomas Greene, Director of International Student Programs, Davidson College

Sara Parrott, Assistant Director of International Student Programs, Davidson College

Minnu Paul, Interim Director of International Programs and Director of International Recruitment, Methodist University

Tracey Hinds, Assistant Professor of Social Work and Field Education Coordinator, Methodist University

Graduate Mentor(s): 

Ellie Vilakazi, PhD Student, English


Priya Meesa and Justin Zhang

Undergraduate Collaborators from Project Partner Schools:

Helen Zhang, Davidson College and Teboho Motselekatse, Methodist University


Through reviewing the history of international students in the U.S. and current government regulations affecting students in nonimmigrant status, and interviewing undergraduates with various cultural backgrounds, the undergraduate and graduate students participating on this research team worked toward an understanding of international student experiences in the U.S. higher education context. The website they created together, at, documents student experiences during this unprecedented time for our institutional records.

Duke Students on Campus Fall 2020


  • Medicine
  • Oral History
  • Documentary
  • Education
  • Global Health