A collaboration between the International Institute’s area studies centers with support from the International Center Grant Fund, this project brings together twelve international graduate students from Africa, East Asia, Southeast Asia, South Asia, the Middle East, Latin America, and Russia to discuss their research, their experience doing area studies at a US institution, and the challenges presented during the COVID-19 pandemic.

In early 2020, the International Institute's area studies centers received a generous grant from the International Center Grant Fund to host a panel event titled "Voices of International Graduate Students." The goal of this event was to provide a space specifically for international graduate students to discuss their struggles, successes, challenges, and advantages experienced while both representing and studying their home regions at a US institution. This project sought to break down silos within the university and build community among international graduate students who bring unique perspectives to their cohorts and colleagues in various programs across campus. We also hoped our domestic students would learn new things about their international colleagues, allowing for more meaningful collaboration and relationship-building. Finally, students of all backgrounds would find new allies and a support system of staff in the International Institute that is willing and able to help connect them to the resources they might need. 

Sadly, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, our international student community was among the first to see their academic experiences deeply affected by the closure of international borders, difficulties in obtaining or renewing visas, and ever-changing travel restrictions. Many of our students were displaced in the early months of 2020, while international students that began their programs in the 2020-2021 academic year still have yet to set foot in Ann Arbor. Some of them spent an entire academic year waking in the middle of the night to take classes! Suddenly, the project’s goal of creating tighter communities of students became a daunting logistical challenge during an increasingly stressful time.

As the months of 2020 passed, and the chances of convening in person seemed to fade, the project team pivoted towards coordinating a virtual event. Finding a time to connect students across the globe in multiple time zones proved nearly impossible, so for this year, the outcome is a pre-recorded program. Please enjoy the testimonies of twelve wonderful international graduate students that have weathered a particularly difficult academic year, yet have accomplished so much despite the challenges. We look forward to this being the first of many initiatives that bring together international graduate student voices!

Additional support for this event was provided by the Center for Middle Eastern and North African Studies, the Center for South Asian Studies, the Center for Southeast Asian Studies, and the Center for Latin American and Caribbean Studies.

Visit the Voices of International Graduate Student's page »