What happened to Lesley in the last couple of years
TL;DR: I was forced to leave university without completing my degree due to unfortunate circumstances, and returning has proven unexpectedly challenging.
Update 2023/12/18: If you are reading this now, please refrain from DMing me and providing suggestions. While I appreciate your willingness to help, I find myself a bit overwhelmed at the moment.
If you're looking for tech-related content, this article is not what you seek. There's no tech information here, so feel free to stop reading. I just share my pain here because it's too painful to bear the weight alone.
Until the summer of 2021, I was an international student at the University of Colorado Boulder, majoring in Computer Science and Applied Math.
Unfortunately, the summer of 2021 marked a significant downturn. I should have graduated at that time, but COVID-19 isolation and remote learning severely impacted my mental health and studying ability. Nevertheless, I have only a few credits left for graduation.
However, in June 2021, I misunderstood the CPT application process and unintentionally started my summer internship before obtaining authorization for my CPT. I did the same internship for two consecutive years with approval, but I got confused about the policy change that occurred in 2021, which made the process more complicated.
The Office of International Student & Scholar Services of CU Boulder immediately canceled my I-20 and asked me to leave the U.S. immediately 1, so I purchased a flight ticket and planned to depart from the United States in June.
The situation got much worse when I realized that my passport had expired. As I didn't have any travel plans that summer due to COVID, I hadn't bothered to check its validity. Despite reaching out to various university offices, none provided meaningful assistance. Subsequently, I contacted the Embassy of China in Chicago, but they informed me that passport renewal would be delayed and advised me to get a Travel Document as an alternative. Even this process took an extended period, and I finally received my Travel Document in late September. Then I left the US in a few days.
I was still optimistic when I went back to China. My COVID-induced mental health condition immediately improved as I reunited with my family. I also swiftly found a job (though officially an intern). I still wanted to stay connected with the programming community, so I tried my best to attend meetups and conferences. I even gave a lightning talk at CppCon 2021 despite the time difference. I also continue to organize my weekly Graphics Programming Virtual Meetup to this day.
Originally, I intended to return to the university in the summer of 2022. However, unforeseen family circumstances have compelled me to postpone my plans once again. At that time, I pondered the idea of not getting back at all. However, the university degree still needs to be solved. With the degree gatekeeping everywhere in China, it is hard for me to find any job besides "internships."
I restarted my planning to return to university early this year and intended to return this Fall. I started to communicate with my universities, but the university's international student office proved highly challenging to communicate with. I applied for my I-20 document, necessary for a U.S. student visa, in April. However, the university staff corresponding with me continually introduced new requirements, delayed responses for a week, and requested additional tasks.
The ongoing back-and-forth is exhausting. Over time, I began experiencing physical pain when reading and responding to their emails. I started to suspect that the university personnel did not want me to return at all; instead, they were only forced to process my documents out of obligation.
Upon receiving my I-20 in June, I discovered it only covered half a year, and my Computer Science major was dropped. Frustrated, I reached a breaking point and sent a blunt email, pointing out what I perceived as "gaslighting" by university personnel. I requested the cancellation of the I-20 form and contemplated giving up.
I was uncertain about my next steps and only vaguely entertained the idea of "transferring to another university to obtain a degree," a process that could potentially take years. In October, I reluctantly chose to give my current university another chance and pleaded with them to readmit me. The process went surprisingly smoothly, and I got a new I-20 with four years of duration in a short period. During the whole process, I didn't communicate with the university's international student office directly.
After receiving my new I-20 form, I applied for a US visa in early December. Upon hearing my condition, the visa officer said that they would check my application and decide later. I received a rejection based on section "214(b)" in a few days.
I am ready for the rejection of my visa application. After all, the entire visa application procedure operates on the "presumption of guilt", requiring me to persuade them that I am rich and definitely harboring no immigrant intentions. 2 My relatively older age compared to typical students and the overstaying history certainly does not work in my favor.
Following the rejection, I emailed the university for assistance, requesting a letter of support. However, instead of providing any help or at least expressing sympathy, the same individual from the university's international student office responded by forwarding the complete content of a visa denial information page from the US government website and declined to offer any support. 3
I plan to reapply for a U.S. visa shortly. However, if I face rejection again, I won't be able to return in the spring of 2024.
Another university personnel from its International Student and Scholar Service sent another email to me today after "come to my attention that you are frustrated with what you perceive as disinterest of the ISSS office at CU Boulder in helping you solve your visa challenges." Someone probably forwarded this blog post to them. They "recommend that you focus on providing additional, new documents including a comprehensive explanation of your ties to home (e.g. family remaining in home country, bank accounts there, job prospects, etc.) and your intent to return there once you have completed your degree in the U.S."
I have decided not to respond to the email.
It has become increasingly evident that this country and university do not welcome me. Worry not; I don't plan to linger. At this point, even if I get a U.S. visa, I don't intend to finish my Computer Science degree anymore4. I will just get my Apply Math degree done and yeet myself out of their sacred country ASAP.
My second visa application was swiftly denied, indicating the likelihood of a negative record associated with my profile. To be honest, I couldn't care less if I can't set foot in that country ever again. Nevertheless, I must reconsider my options for pursuing a degree elsewhere.
- COVID-19 travel advisories are not their problem, they said.↩
- Admittedly, a couple of years ago, I did want to stay in the U.S. I had a strong attachment to Boulder, having lived here for an extended period. However, my perspective has since shifted. Without a rose-colored glass, I now see institutional racism and injustices a lot clearer.↩
- I assumed this individual was no longer managing my case because there were no issues in September. How naive of me?↩
- I used to have a Computer Science and Applied Math double major. The university canceled my CS major and said that I could pursue it again after I graduate from the Applied Math one.↩