Yashovardhan Maheshwari, a freshman at the University of Illinois’ Urbana-Champaign campus, was aboard one of the last planes allowed to fly to India on March 20, two days before that nation imposed a temporary ban on international flights. As college campuses across the nation were being shut down, international students around the world were left scrambling to find a safe way home amid a pending wave of travel restrictions. The University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign had 10,610 international students from 113 countries for the 2019-2020 school year and many were torn between staying or returning home. For Maheshwari, his journey to get home to Bhopal, India started on a Friday in Chicago at 1:30 p.m. and ended 31 hours later, after long lines, tight quarters with thousands of fellow passengers, three health screenings and little-to-no-food. A 15-hour flight followed by 16-hours locked in an airport.
Maheshwari said the situation was “mismanaged” as 8,000 passengers from international flights were held in close proximity for 16 hours at the Indira Gandhi International Airport or IGI, in Delhi.