WAYS U.S COLLEGES SUPPORT INTERNATIONAL STUDENTS DURING COVID-19
THE CORONAVIRUS pandemic and resulting stay-at-home orders caught much of the U.S. off guard, but for some international students far from home, it's been particularly trying.
Some 92% of enrolled international students remain in the U.S. on campus or in another location, according to a survey of U.S. higher education institutions published in May by the Institute of International Education. Many U.S. colleges and universities have stepped up to support international students in various ways as they navigate the new normal.
"I personally feel supported, to an extent, which I'm very thankful for," says Srinivasa Rao Ippili, a Ph.D. student in the University of Kentucky Department of Mechanical Engineering. For example, he says an emergency wellness fund from the university was helpful in covering his increased utilities costs due to no longer working on campus, and that he also received food items for his pantry.
Here are three ways U.S. colleges and universities are working to support currently enrolled international students:
- COVID-19 testing and free masks
- Remote tutoring
- Pandemic-related counseling
COVID-19 Testing and Free Masks
U.S. university international student health insurance plans typically cover testing and treatment for COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus. This is true of plans at public schools like SUNY—Geneseo in New York and Texas A&M University—College Station and private schools such as The University of the South in Tennessee.
At the University of Kentucky, "All international students are enrolled in a mandatory health insurance plan, and it covers COVID-19 testing and treatment," says Sue Roberts, associate provost for internationalization. "The plan covers testing, and if positive, treatment is covered like any other illness."
In the spring, most U.S. college campuses closed to contain the spread of the coronavirus and transitioned to online learning. That in turn led many schools to move tutoring and English as a second language help online to assist international students.
For example, the University Learning Center at New York University is offering both U.S. and international students free online tutoring via Zoom, a popular videoconferencing tool, including in the summer. International students should check with their individual school about offered resources as some tutoring and ESL services may require a fee.
Schools are also providing counseling for international students dealing with loneliness, stress and anxiety related to the coronavirus outbreak and stay-at-home orders. For example, the University of Southern California has a weekly 30-minute Let's Talk: International Student Edition, an opportunity to spend time virtually with a clinician from USC Counseling and Mental Health.
Ippili says an increase in the cost of utilities like electricity and internet and a lack of opportunity to look for additional employment on campus have made him more anxious.
"The stress level has gone a lot higher," Ippili says. He says he attended a webinar hosted by the University of Kentucky's counseling center staff that mentioned available remote therapy sessions for international students and addressed ways to fight depression.