With students being impacted at the moment due to COVID-19, now more than ever are they relying on PCC’s services and programs with the new transition of going remote. Some students are struggling with online classes or finding a place to stay.
The International Students Center (ISC) is a campus resource that is helping students during the COVID-19 crisis. The center works with non-resident students, whether they are international or out-of-state U.S. citizens. The ISC has a program called The Student Exchange and Visitor Program (SEVP). This is a federal department within Homeland Security that oversees all regulations related to enrollment of international students, according to an email from Director of International Students Olivia Loo.
“Per federal regulations, international students under the F-1 Visa are only allowed to enroll in one, 3 unit online class towards their 12 unit minimum requirement,” said Loo.
Now that COVID-19 has become a worldwide pandemic and the majority of colleges have gone virtual, international students under the F-1 Visa have been provided aid by SEVP to allow them to complete their courses remotely until further notice, according to Loo. She also stated that this is very important because it helps protect and safeguard PCC international students’ visa statuses.
An F-1 Visa allows an individual to enter the United States as a full-time student at an accredited institution or other academic institution or in a language training program, and their school must be authorized by the U.S. government to accept international students, according to the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services.
Student Ei Thu Thu is one of many international students whose daily routine has been impacted by COVID-19. She stated via email that she does not know how to drive, so she has been using Uber and Lyft to get around even before the quarantine situation. However, now it is more difficult to use driving services to do even the smallest things like grocery shopping because of the lockdown. Since the lockdown went into effect in California, she has been worried about how her family and friends are doing back home and in the U.S.
“I also see a lot of my friends going back home,” said Thu, “but after a discussion with my parents, we made a decision that it would be more convenient for me to stay here instead of getting on a plane and going through transit.”
According to Loo, many students are concerned about returning home due to travel bans and possibly being able to return to the States again.
“Many of our students and their families are feeling very anxious, as you can probably imagine,” said Loo. “They are far away from home and many of them usually live alone or with roommates, so being quarantined without much social support can be nerve-wrecking. Many of our international students have decided to return home during this period, and are planning to come back by April 20. A small number have decided to withdraw from their courses completely.”
Loo also stated that for those who are not returning, most have reached out to SEVP about how they can use their International Health Insurance to pay for services such as COVID-19 testing, if these students suspect of being ill, asking for advice on mental health and food insecurities.
“There is a social media named ‘WeChat,’” said Head of the Chinese Students and Scholars Association Peter Yu. “It’s the main way to communicate with others between the Chinese students.”
WeChat is China’s most popular messaging app with monthly users of more than one billion people.
Due to the spread of COVID-19, China temporarily banned foreigners from entering. According to Yu, Chinese students are still able to go back home with the complication of only one flight a week. Yu also stated that even though the students are able to go back home, many would not want to go back at the moment.
One main service that Thu utilizes is counseling to help her stay on track with her courses. Since the online transition, she has been doing well. If Thu has any confusion with the material being taught, she will take advantage of office hours that professors provide while being in quarantine. Thus also stated that going online worried her because of how helpful her professors would be, but her professors have been extremely helpful by having available office hours and extending dates for assignments when requested by the students.