SDSU international community looks to future under Trump administration

The 2016 presidential election will officially come to a close Friday, Jan. 20 when Donald Trump is sworn into office. Although many South Dakota State University students had the opportunity to vote, some could not.

SDSU is home to 763 international students, representing 81 different countries. These students are unable to vote in political elections because they are not American citizens, yet many of them will consider the United States home for the foreseeable future.

Greg Wymer, director of international scholars, said this election in particular seemed to resonate more than previous ones within the international student body, noting this is likely due to Trump’s statements regarding immigration policies.

“No previous election has had any major impact on our enrollment,” said Wymer, who has been at SDSU since 2012 and has watched the number of international students jump from 415 to 700. But some students have voiced concern over their potential futures in the United States.

“It’s like a big, black box of surprises,” said Andrea Hess, a graduate student from Germany.

Hess has a visa to work on her doctorate degree for the next five years, which means the election will likely not impact her time here. However, Hess said some of her Iranian colleagues are worried they may have problems renewing their visas because they are Muslim.

Wymer heard similar concerns while visiting Indonesia, a primarily Muslim country, for recruitment in 2016.

“I had a few fathers there tell me that if Trump won the election they would not send their children to school in the United States,” Wymer said.

Despite increased anxiety, Gabriel De Souza, an engineering student from Brazil, felt many of Trump’s comments do not reflect the overall views of Americans.

“I still feel very welcomed at SDSU. No one here, regardless of their political views, has treated me badly before or after the election and I think many people in America don’t have the same views or values that Trump does,” De Souza said, adding that during his return to South Dakota from Brazil over Winter Break he didn’t have issues or unusual problems flying or getting through customs.

Both Hess and De Souza said regardless of who the president is they still would have made the choice to come study in the United States.

“I think students still come here for the ‘American Dream,’” De Souza said. “People want to come study because they can go and be successful, so I don’t think the president will ever change students coming. It might get more difficult but people won’t stop.”

Starting Friday, Trump will begin to work with Congress to implement some of his proposed changes from the campaign trail.

“We likely won’t see anything for a while,” Wymer said. “I think it will take some time to see if anything really changes but I’d like to think our numbers will continue to grow as they have been.”