International students decide whether to return home for spring break amid ongoing restrictions

Students+relaxing+on+Boston+Common.

Photo: Zhihao Wu

Students relaxing on Boston Common.

By Bailey Allen, Editor-at-Large

As students prepare to leave campus for spring break, international students have an added layer of difficulty amid the ongoing pandemic.

Due to COVID-19 restrictions within their respective countries, some international students have decided against traveling back home. 

Kyoko Itoh, a first-year visual and media arts major, is not returning to her home in Japan and instead will be staying in New York with friends. It simply isn’t worth it to go back to Japan for a week because of the slew of quarantine rules still in place, Itoh explained.

Japan’s self-quarantine period changed Mar. 1, so all cross-border travelers and returnees from countries where the Omicron variant is dominant are required to quarantine, take follow-up checks, and refrain from using public transportation for seven days, according to the Japanese government’s official website.

“Without the quarantine, I could technically go back and I would still have more than a week to spend time in Japan,” Itoh said. “So, it’s possible, but COVID is just not making it happen.”

Itoh plans to stay in upstate New York for a few days, where she used to live for a few years as a child, before traveling to New York City. She will be staying with old friends in both locations while her parents remain in Japan.

“If the whole COVID situation just did not exist, I would have maybe considered [going home], but my parents would have been like, ‘No, it’s a waste of money. Don’t come back,’” she said. “I probably would have had to figure out a way to stay somewhere else. Either way, I probably would not have gone back.”

Elena Viennet, a first-year business of creative enterprises major with French and American dual-citizenship, will be returning to France sans quarantine guidelines. As of Feb. 12, fully-vaccinated travelers arriving in France do not have to quarantine unless they are showing symptoms of COVID-19, according to the French government.

“As soon as I booked my ticket, I got an email from Air France with all the restrictions and documents I would need based on where I was traveling from and where I was going,” Viennet continued. “If you haven’t had your three doses, or if your last dose was more than six months ago, you need a COVID test.”

Viennet said she is in the process of transferring her U.S. vaccination card into a European one—something that isn’t mandatory, but will make her life easier due to the universal QR code system that is used there.

“It makes it easier to get into every single restaurant, cafe, or anywhere you are obliged to have a vaccination card to sit down and even just order something,” she said.

Before entering France, Viennet is also required to attest to the French government that she is indeed healthy.

“I’m supposed to do a little paper where I’m declaring ‘on my honor’ that I don’t have COVID that I don’t have any symptoms,” Viennet said. “That’s what they’re using to replace the PCR tests.”

Viennet said that to come back into the United States, she will have to take a COVID test 24 hours before her flight. She will then take another after the flight and will be back to her regular testing schedule the following Wednesday.

“For people who are going to be in the States, driving or taking the train, they don’t need a COVID test and I think that’s definitely trickier,” she said. “[Emerson] should require tests from people who don’t have to take them to leave wherever they’re coming from.”

Also from Japan, Ryunosuke Watanabe, a first-year business of creative enterprises major, plans to travel to Orlando, Florida over the break with the tennis team in order to compete in matches, but due to contracting COVID-19, his plans may be thwarted if he doesn’t test negative before the team is set to leave on Saturday evening.

“On Sunday, I went to get a rapid test from CVS and I tested positive,” he said. “If I tested positive on Monday instead of Sunday, just waiting for the Tufts testing center to open, then my [isolation] would’ve probably started Monday night, and my first day out of isolation would’ve been the next Sunday. I would have missed my flight and had to stay here during the spring break, instead of playing any matches in Florida.”

In regards to traveling back home to Japan, Watanabe said it really wouldn’t be feasible for him to do so due to the quarantine requirements.

“Even if I wanted to, I can’t [go home] because there are isolation policies in Japan,” he said. “The spring break is just one week. Those who live in the U.S. can just go home for the weekend, but I can’t do that.”