KATHMANDU, Feb 11: Rakesh Bista, an ambitious youngster, shook his head in great despair and disappointment after the results of the recent US presidential election. Bista, who aspired to have an American degree ever since he discovered his aim to be a successful computer engineer, thought the US election result could now affect his dream.
He remembers how he and his friends had chanted prayers in support of Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton though they never seemed concerned about their own country's presidential elections. But the stunning victory of Republican Donald J. Trump over Clinton was a great setback for a lot of students like him. “For a moment, the news shattered all my dreams leaving me hopeless about my future, but later I decided to fight for my dreams,” Bista said.
He is not an exception as there are thousands of fragile and vulnerable young students who have been immensely affected by Trump's astounding victory. They think going to the US might get tougher now. “It's a double-edged sword for me - if I don't apply for the visa now, all the money that I have spent so far for my dream to study in the US will go to waste but applying now is not risk-free either,” shared Bista.
Although President Trump has said nothing about the F-1 visa, the immigration law and ban on seven Muslim countries are enough to freak some students out. “As far as I know, getting the visa is not a problem as such; what scares me is that Trump might make it difficult for students like us to stay and survive in the US,” said Palisha Sthapit, a student who plans to apply for a student visa to the US for fall 2017.
While many students are worried about their survival in the US after they get there, there are those who didn't dare to face the visa interview due to the fear of being rejected. Also, it has been found that some students have even switched to other countries including Australia. And many have put their plan of studying abroad on hold.
The data collected from some leading consultancies shows that the uncertainty among the students has largely affected the enrollments. Nepal International Educational Consultancy, one of the leading educational consultancies in the country, has enrolled altogether 206 students in 2017 so far whereas in January last year alone it had enrolled 341 students out of which more than 60 percent applied for the US. “We cannot say that the number will continue to decline in the near future as there are so many students who are trying to be on a safe side by not applying now,” said Bhuwan Prasain, US Counselor at NIEC.
The 2016 Open Doors Report on International Educational Exchange stated that the number of international students in American universities increased by 7.1 percent during the 2015/16 academic year. According to the report, Nepal ranked 17th in the world in terms of sending students to the US. Although it conveyed a positive message, the big question at the moment is: will the number continue to rise or will it decrease in Trump's era?
“Well, it's too early to say whether visa rates will increase or decrease as that can be only determined by the outcome of the upcoming intakes,” said Mamata Upadhaya, US Counselor at NIEC, adding, “But still, no one can deny the fact that the terror created by Trump has surely affected the confidence of the students.”
The Ministry of Education issued the highest number of 'No Objection Letters (NOC)' for Australia, followed by the US till last December. But the number of students going to the US has slightly decreased since January this year.