Raj Anupam is a student working on his master's degree at the University of Maine. Credit: Linda Coan O'Kresik / BDN

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International students at the University of Maine are relieved that they no longer will have to leave the country if the university continues to offer only remote learning during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Trump administration on Tuesday rescinded a rule that would have required international students to transfer or leave the country if their schools held classes entirely online because of the pandemic, after dozens of universities and some states joined Harvard and MIT to sue the U.S Department of Homeland Security and U.S Immigrations and Customs Enforcement.

Maine Sens. Susan Collins and Angus King and U.S. Rep. Chellie Pingree also called on the administration to reverse the rule.

The reversal, less than ten days after the rule was announced, elicited relief from international students who felt like they had to either risk contracting the virus by returning to campus or leave the country.

“This gives me a little bit of hope that they see the value of international students to the community and to the country,” said Janina Deisenrieder, a graduate student from Germany studying communications and global policy at UMaine.

“Because I think we really make an effort to integrate ourselves into our community, and give something back.”

Under the rule, international students enrolled at higher education institutions that planned to conduct a hybrid of in-person or online classes would not have the same choice as domestic students to take those classes online.

“We have a choice now, like American students,” said UMaine graduate student Raj Anupam, who is from India. “Having that ability to choose is really important.”

Maine’s public university students were not significantly impacted by the rule, as the system had already announced that in-person classes would be resuming to varying degrees systemwide.

After the ruling was announced, the UMaine system, like many other higher education institutions across the country, assured international students that they would continue to advocate for foreign students, according to Deisenrieder.

She said foreign students at UMaine are invested in more than just the degree they will have when they leave — they want what is best for the UMaine community as well.

“It’s just like a little bit hurtful to be seen, as some sources called us, a significant national security concern,” Deisenrieder said. “That’s just unsettling and alienating. People often forget that we’re humans with lives here, and it’s more than just simply taking classes.”