How US Coronavirus Measures Affect International Students | Best colleges
It was only after Chinese national Zhibin Mo returned to the United States from the winter vacation in China that he learned of the spread in his country of the new coronavirus, which causes a disease called COVID-19. A high school student at Rockford Lutheran Senior High School in Illinois, he has no idea when he will visit his family again in the southern Chinese city of Guangzhou.
“My family is doing well because none of the people I know have contracted the virus,” he says.
Mo will be starting his first year at University of Connecticut this autumn. The school joined other universities across the United States – from Princeton University in New Jersey for Ohio State University to schools in the University of California system – who have canceled or suspended classes and switched to online classes in response to the global pandemic.
Mo is not yet sure how the college measures will affect him as an incoming student, but says he has an aunt he could stay with in Seattle if needed.
“I think students need to be flexible about any changes that will occur in the coming year,” says Elton Lin, founder and CEO of ILUMIN Education, a college admissions consultancy in California.
Here are some things current and potential international students need to know about studying in the United States as the country takes action to combat the spread of the coronavirus.
Current international students
In addition to moving classes online, some colleges and universities in the United States have suspended study abroad programs and asked students to stay at home or elsewhere after spring break.
“There are concerns about being locked up and not being able to go home, or vice versa, being locked up at home and not being able to go back to school. There are concerns about cutting research funding or racial tensions among students, ”Lin said.
Mirka Martel, head of research, assessment and learning at the Institute of International Education, which studies the effects of the coronavirus outbreak on American institutions, says many schools have issued a communication to facility-wide and specific web pages to combat the outbreak and the campus response. For Chinese students, Martel says some schools have set up counseling services and a hotline for them to report cases of discrimination. The origins of the virus in China have sparked a few incidents of xenophobic backlash against Chinese citizens.
Kathleen Gutheil, Director of International Admissions and Transfer at University of Miami — Oxford in Ohio, says the school tries to balance the need to protect public health with the need to serve its educational mission.
“Students may choose to return to their permanent place of residence or to remain on campus, where appropriate social distancing and enhanced preventive health and hygiene measures will be actively encouraged. We urge all students to make the choice that suits them best, ”said Gutheil. .
Earlier this week, Harvard University in Massachusetts announced it was switching to virtual education and asked all students to relocate by March 15 in order to protect the health of the community. The five-day delay caused some distress among international students, who worried about visa and immigration status, accommodation and travel plans, according to Harvard Crimson, a daily student newspaper.
However, students can apply online to request an exception to the campus closure, especially those residing in countries with a travel ban or a high threat level of coronavirus, the Crimson reported.
Harvard spokeswoman Rachael Bane said the school is considering all applications and will announce its decisions soon, including information on the length of stay for students. “The college, through the financial aid office, works with assisted students who need help,” she says.
Robyn Brown, Executive Director of Global Engagement at Akron University in Ohio, says most of the school’s international students have chosen to stay in the area. The school has implemented a mandatory three-week break and will switch to virtual education from March 30.
Brown says the university has informed students who have chosen to leave that if they cannot return to the United States, for example due to travel restrictions or the inability to renew their visas on time, the school will try to accommodate individual exceptions.
International students who are affected by their college’s move to fully online education may have concerns about their student visa status, as U.S. government regulations typically allow them to take only one online course per semester. . However, recent advice for U.S. institutions the Student and Exchange Visitor Program gives universities flexibility to implement temporary adjustments, such as switching to online education, that will not affect the immigration status of registered international students who pursue their full course of study online.
SEVP guidelines indicate that changes in workplace requirements may affect non-immigrant students involved in hands-on training. These are options such as optional practical training, known as OPT, and practical curricular training, known as CPT, which allow eligible international students in the United States to gain work experience related to their studies. Students should consult with their employers to settle job retention through telecommuting or other means, advises SEVP.
Gutheil says the University of Miami plans to keep students informed and up to date through the school’s website and the university’s call center. Experts recommend that students also contact their school’s international student services office.
Prospective international students
Prospective international students who are considering applying to US colleges and universities also face uncertainty. But schools across the country are gearing up to address issues specifically affecting international student applicants.
“We are monitoring the situation very closely and are committed to being sensitive to any interruptions or complications caused by the spread of the new coronavirus,” said Tim Brunold, dean of admissions at the University of Southern California.
Admission tests are a matter of concern for prospective international students. More than 15 countries have canceled administration of the SAT exam scheduled for March 14 due to the coronavirus, according to the College Council. Mainland China, for example, has canceled entrance exams like the SAT and GRE and English proficiency tests like TOEFL and IELTS, which are typically required for international students to study at US universities.
“Due to concerns for the health and safety of students and staff, TOEFL and GRE test administrations have been postponed in some parts of the world,” Allyson Norton, senior public relations manager for ETS, which develops and administers these tests. two tests, among others, written in an e-mail.
She says test takers are immediately notified if their testing has been postponed, and ETS is working with partners in the field to ensure testing seats will be available once testing resumes.
“ETS continues to be in communication with colleges and universities regarding the dates of canceled tests and the potential impact on students and has requested their understanding for any delay in submitting grades,” Norton said.
She adds that ETS and the TOEFL program are “about to introduce a secure TOEFL iBT testing solution that will allow students in certain areas affected by the coronavirus to take the test at home, before testing centers reopen for regular tests “. The iBT refers to the internet test offered at ETS approved test centers. The home version of the test is expected to be introduced by the end of March in some locations outside of mainland China, she said.
Gutheil says many universities in the United States are willing to work one-on-one with international applicants and show flexibility with application deadlines, required application materials, English proficiency tests, and application deadlines. ‘registration.
At Akron University, Brown said via email, “We have made the decision to defer summer undergraduate applications to the fall and the International Center is processing applications from international students and I -20 for fall 2020 as usual. ” The I-20 form certifies that an international student is eligible to apply for an F-1 University Student Visa or an M-1 Professional Student Visa.
“It is important to know that admission decisions are academic decisions and that coming from a country where the coronavirus is present does not affect the admission or not of students,” said Gutheil.
Lin, whose clients are mostly from China, India and Canada, so far says he hasn’t seen anything that would prevent families from wanting to apply to U.S. universities.
“Students always want to study in the United States, and the coronavirus problem doesn’t change anyone’s long-term goals,” Lin said.