Foreign Students View Capitol Riot With Fear

Shwe Einthe was about to leave her Washington apartment to grab a bite to eat when an emergency message blared on her cellphone, alerting her to violence at the U.S. Capitol building and a 6 p.m. citywide curfew.  “My first thought was, ‘Oh, my God, this feels like dictator Myanmar, like I am back in my developing country,'” said Einthe, an international student at George Washington University. “‘This doesn’t happen in the States, curfew doesn’t happen in the States. That happens in countries like mine.'” Like other international students in the U.S., Einthe said she was shocked by the violent protests over President Donald Trump’s election loss on January 6 — and how closely they resembled political violence some international students have experienced in their home countries.  “My family grew up during a revolution, coup after coup, we lived under a very brutal military dictatorship,” said Einthe. “Having experienced martial law and curfew, I’m very familiar with all of that.”International student enrollment in the U.S. was down by 0.9% for the 2018-2019 academic year, according to an annual Open Doors report released in November 2020 by the Institute for International Education (IIE). While the top reasons that academic year for choosing other countries, such as Canada, Australia and New Zealand for study, were cost and immigration barriers in the U.S., students also cited negative political rhetoric, perceived crime, and a feeling of unwelcomeness.Mariana Blanco (Courtesy of Mariana Blanco)Violence on Capitol Hill “reminded us of home, and not in a good way,” said Mariana Blanco, a sophomore at Case Western University and originally from Colombia. “Even if it was for completely different reasons, it was mirroring what happens in other countries. The U.S. has always been, at least in my mind, on a higher pedestal. Seeing that those things can also happen here made me second guess my decision of moving here.”Angeli Nandwani (Courtesy of Angeli Nandwani)”I always counted on having the U.S. as a mentor to us, the ones who would help us fix our democracy, but now they’ve revealed that they also have to fix their democracy,” Nandwani said. “For me, it meant that the U.S. was no longer the best guide as to how our governments should look.” Some international students in Washington said they feared the protesters, many of whom were identified as members of white supremacist groups. Isabela Linares Uscher, a sophomore at American University, said her mother gave her advice for navigating the city during the riots at the Capitol: “Please don’t go downtown, and if you do, speak English.” US National Guard to Mobilize 15,000 Members for Inauguration SecurityThe request for more support was made in the wake of a violent breach of the US Capitol last week”My parents made me move my plane ticket to after the inauguration of President Biden’s government because they didn’t want me to be in [Washington] D.C.,” said Nandwani. 

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