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Four students whose countries closed their borders say they don't know when they can go home

A graphic of three people waving flags on an island with a stop sign and a coronavirus warning sign floating in the water around the island.

Students from Mongolia, Fiji and Thailand shared their experiences of being stuck on the island due to their countries’ border closures. Countries around the world closed their borders to curb the global pandemic.

According to the Pew Research Center, 91 percent of the world's 7.1 billion people live in countries that have instigated some type of border closure since the pandemic began and 39 percent live in countries that have completely closed their borders to both non-citizens and citizens.

Ganchudur Batgerel, a senior from Mongolia majoring in supply chain management, said she wanted to go back to Mongolia because she has not met with her family for four years. When something bad happens, she said she wants to be with her family during this hard time.

According to, as of May 9 Mongolia only has 42 confirmed cases. Batgerel said she believes the country is a much safer place to stay.

“Mongolians took preventive measures much earlier, that is why they have such few cases even though Mongolia is a neighbor country of China.” However, she cannot go back because Mongolia closed its borders due to increasing global cases, Batgerel added.

Batgerel said another complication is her two youngest children were born in the United States and do not have passports yet so they cannot travel internationally.

Batgerel said she ordered their passports, but they take time to arrive. She said if her children’s passports arrive and Mongolia opens its borders, she will be happy to go back.

Georgina Sefeti, a sophomore from Fiji majoring in international peacebuilding, said, “I want to go home because there is no point staying here in Hawaii now.” However, Fiji also closed its borders until further notice, so she said she will stay on campus until Fiji opens its borders. According to the New York Post, Fiji has only 18 confirmed cases of COVID-19 as of May 5 and no deaths.

Nawaporn Ruangthap, a sophomore from Thailand majoring in piano performance, said she tried to go back to Thailand. The Thailand Embassy asked her to send a verification letter proving she was not infected with COVID-19. She said she got verification from the BYU–Hawaii Health Center and sent it to the embassy.

“Then it [seemed] like everything is fine, and I [could] go back. My bishop dropped me off to the Honolulu airport, but I had to come back to the Hales because Thailand closed its borders to prevent the spread of the pandemic,” said Ruangthap.

According to the Thai Enquirer, the total number of confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Thailand stands at 3,004 as of May 9 with 56 deaths.

Lorasia Tavuto, a sophomore from Fiji majoring in social work, said she does not want to go back to Fiji, but she is leaving campus because of the hale closures. She said since Fiji closed its borders, she decided to go to California to stay with her aunt.

Tavuto said, “I thought this pandemic would be over soon, but now it affects the whole world. I worry for my family, friends and coworkers. Being far away from home, the only thing I can do is to pray, have faith and take preventative measures to protect myself and those around me.”