Twenty-eight new international students came to Wartburg College’s campus this fall.  

For some, their journeys to get to campus are days-long efforts. 

Among the 28 new students, two of them are the first students from their country to study at Wartburg. Hassan Yusuf is the first student from Somalia and Ahmed Bassam is the first from the Maldives. 

Last academic year, only five international students were able to make it in the U.S. due to coronavirus restrictions. 

Ahmed Bassam is a first-year student from the Maldives. 

“I am pretty proud of myself,” Bassam said. He is majoring in psychology. 

Bassam traveled over 36 hours with three flights until he reached Wartburg’s grounds. Bassam first flew from the Maldives to Frankfurt, Germany, and then to Chicago to take his last flight to Cedar Rapids, where he was picked up by Wartburg officials.  

Before he traveled to the U.S., Bassam traveled to Sri Lanka to get his visa approval, which took him three weeks. 

“I got rejected first,” Bassam said. “I had to extend my stay. It was a lot of cost as well.” 

Like Bassam, Srujana Dandem also faced obstacles trying to get her visa. Dandem is a first-year student from India majoring in math secondary education. 

“It was COVID, so they were not even taking visa applications until mid-June,” Dandem said. “You can’t even book it because there were thousands of people trying to get the visa appointment to study in the U.S. It was super hard. I had to stay up until 5 a.m. to get a visa appointment.” 

Four of the new students came to campus for the first time as second-year students. Last year, these students relied on online classes since travel was not possible. However, this option is not available this year, which means students who could not get their visas this year cannot complete their classes online. 

“There are a lot of students who could not come because they did not get a visa interview or they could not get the allocated time to start the semester,” Director of International Students Zafrul Amin said. “They have the opportunity to come back next year or some of the students potentially could come next semester.” 

While Wartburg administration helped Dandem to get her flight ticket to the U.S., the procedure was still not easy as the school administration booked her a flight that goes through the U.K. 

“India is a red-listed country, so Indians cannot use the U.K. as a transit country,” Dandem said. “In the end, they got me a flight directly from India to the San Francisco.” 

Dandem still had to fly over 32 hours to make it to college. From San Francisco she flew to Chicago, from Chicago she flew to Waterloo. There college officials welcomed her. 

“I don’t think the visa process and coming here is generally ever simple, but with the COVID it was 10 times worse,” Dandem said. 

After the stressful visa process and long journeys to Wartburg campus, students are enjoying school. 

“I come from a huge city,” Dandem said. She comes from Hyderabad, a city with the population of over 6 million people, according to the Greater Hyderabad Municipal Corporation. “I really like the peaceful nature; it is perfect for me.” 

Like Dandem, Shonosuke Katagiri likes the Wartburg campus. Katagiri is a first-year student from Japan majoring in neuroscience. 

“[It is] very safe and very friendly,” Katagiri said. 

Amin encourages everyone to make Wartburg feel like home for international students. 

“These students travel a long way from home, and I hope in our community, in our campus, and all our students can make them feel welcome,” Amin said. 

For more information on international students please contact Zafrul Amin at or follow I-Club at


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