The coronavirus pandemic and the resulting stay-at-home orders have caught much of the United States off guard, but for some international students away from home, it was particularly trying.
Some 92% of registered international students stay in the United States on campus or elsewhere, according to a investigation of higher education institutions in the United States published in May by the Institute of International Education. Many American colleges and universities have stepped up to support international students in a variety of ways as they navigate the new normal.
“I feel personally supported, to a certain extent, for which I am very grateful,” says Srinivasa Rao Ippili, a PhD. student in the University of Kentucky Department of Mechanical Engineering. For example, he says that an emergency university welfare fund has been helpful in covering his increased utility costs due to no longer working on campus, and that he has also received food products for his pantry.
Here are three ways that U.S. colleges and universities are working to support currently enrolled international students:
- COVID-19 test and free masks
- Distance tutoring
- Pandemic advice
COVID-19 test and free masks
At University of Kentucky“All international students are enrolled in a mandatory health insurance plan, which covers COVID-19 testing and treatment,” said Sue Roberts, associate vice-president of internationalization. “The plan covers testing, and if it is positive, treatment is covered like any other disease.”
Roberts says the school has distributed free single-use masks at residences where international undergraduates stay during the summer as well as at graduate and family accommodation. The university plans to provide personal protective equipment to all students this fall, including international students, she said, through a welcome kit that will include, among other things, two reusable cloth masks.
TO Lehigh University in Pennsylvania, the “student health insurance plan is available to all students, international and domestic,” says David Rubenstein, executive director of the school’s health and wellness center. “COVID-19 testing and treatment is covered by the student plan, and co-payments are waived for that care,” he says.
Rubenstein says the school provided free procedural / surgical masks to students who were unable to return home and remained on campus during the spring semester.
“When the students return to campus, at any time, we will provide masks,” Rubenstein said. Students will receive two washable fabric face covers free of charge.
In the spring, most U.S. college campuses closed to contain the spread of the coronavirus and switched to online learning. This in turn has led many schools to move tutoring and ESL support online to help international students.
For example, the University Learning Center of New York University offers US and international students free online tutoring through Zoom, a popular video conferencing tool, including in the summer. International students should check with their individual school for resources on offer, as some tutoring and ESL services may be chargeable.
TO Emory University in Atlanta, “Tutors who specialize in working with non-native English speakers continue to support students remotely and provide online assistance. They offer flexible appointments to accommodate students living in spindles. different hours, ”says Laura Diamond, assistant vice president of communications and public affairs.
She says free tutoring services are available to students regardless of their location for summer and fall classes.
When the University of Buffalo — SUNY in New York have switched to online education in the spring semester, the Intensive English without Credit program and the ESL with credit program have also done so, “so that international students can continue their education. English, whether they’re here or back in their own country, ”says John Wood, Acting Vice-President for International Education.
Deborah Méndez Wilson, spokesperson for the University of Colorado – Boulder, says the school offers individual or group academic support for international students, inside and outside the United States “who need help taking all online courses and other academic issues caused by the changes of COVID-19 “. She says the school’s International English Center offers one-to-one ESL lessons to international students for an additional fee.
Schools are also providing counseling for international students facing the loneliness, stress and anxiety associated with the coronavirus outbreak and stay-at-home orders. For example, the University of Southern California has a 30-minute weekly Let’s Talk: International Student Edition, an opportunity to virtually spend time with a clinician from USC Counseling and Mental Health.
Ippili says an increase in the cost of utilities like electricity and the internet and the lack of opportunities to seek additional employment on campus made him more anxious.
“The stress level increased a lot more,” says Ippili. He says he attended a webinar hosted by staff at the University of Kentucky Counseling Center that mentioned distance therapy sessions available to international students and discussed ways to fight depression.
When school closures began, Ippili said he was initially worried and faced financial uncertainty as an international graduate student due to a pay cut for assistant positions in research and teaching assistant. However, he said he was relieved to learn last week via email that the university will continue to fund all graduate students in such positions.
To better support international students, Monica Ng, director of counseling and psychiatry services at CU — Boulder, says her office referred them to Mental Health and wellness services in their own countries and developed videos on eating disorders, multicultural issues and other health and wellness issues accessible to students all over the world. Méndez Wilson says the university also offers non-clinical and informal consultations with a counselor through e-Let’s Talk, a free telehealth service.
“If the international student is still in Colorado, we offer virtual walk-in sessions, one-on-one therapy, group therapy and support to resolve some of the issues related to COVID such as racial discrimination, decisions about staying or going home, fear of not being able to return after leaving the country, worrying about the impact of COVID on their families in their country of origin, etc., ”Méndez Wilson said.
Texas Global, which serves as the international office for the University of Texas — Austin, has partnered with the school’s mental health and counseling center to deliver webinars to international students on coping strategies to help overcome isolation and manage stress caused by the pandemic, said the spokesperson JB Bird.
In addition to pandemic-related advice, he says the school’s overall support for international students also includes offering professional support and emergency food and housing assistance, as well as advice on evolution of immigration policies and procedures.
“Texas Global works with colleges, faculty and with overseas partners to maintain the academic continuity of students,” Bird said.