The College Post
The College Post -- Covering Higher Education in America

7 Tips for International Students During COVID-19

Coronavirus has changed life as we know it. Amid health scares and economic downturns, universities especially have become virtually unrecognizable. Campuses have closed, classes have shifted online, and overseas students have struggled with time zone differences and shoddy internet connections.

Colleges and universities are trying hard to monitor the rapidly evolving situation. While some universities may reopen campus, “normal” university life may not resume anytime soon.

In the meantime, colleges are doing the best they can to support their students all over the world. While the crisis can be overwhelming, you shouldn’t let it stop you from achieving your goals.

Here are seven tips for international students to continue nailing university during a global pandemic.

1. Minimize Your Expenses

College is expensive — and it’s even more expensive if you’re an international student. International students often rely on funding, scholarships, and student loans to further their education. They also take up part-time jobs to supplement income.

Gone are the days of clubbing with friends on weekends. With the economic recession on the rise, it is time to cut down your expenses. Make a note of your income and find ways you can cut costs. Prepare an emergency budget so you have something to fall back on. If you need help, download a budgeting app Mint or Pocketguard are popular to track your expenses.

Finally, if you can’t cut, you can try checking with your college to see if you qualify for a larger student loan.

2. Insurance Is a Must

Overseas students who have secured an admission offer in the US are usually enrolled in a mandatory health insurance plan. If you are an international student, you might also want to check whether your insurance covers COVID-19 testing and treatment. Otherwise, if you catch the virus and end up in hospital, you may be faced with a huge bill.

Also, find out if your college is offering pandemic-related counseling services or free protective equipment for resident students. Taking care of your mental health is vital, and if the situation gets even worse you can never have too many face masks.

3. Think Twice Before Traveling

Countries are slowly opening borders for overseas travel. Nevertheless, travel restrictions apply nearly everywhere and are unlikely to lift anytime soon. Many international students have been stranded in the countries where they are studying. 

If you are not affected by travel restrictions and are considering going back home, pause first. Ask yourself whether you want to take the risk of overseas travel. If you still do, ensure you are perfectly healthy with no symptoms of COVID-19. Check your travel insurance to understand whether it covers COVID-19 testing. Finally, maintain social distancing at all costs while traveling.

4. Find Safe Accommodation

Educational institutes have shut down campuses and switched to online classes. Students were instructed to leave campus and work remotely. With travel restrictions in place, many students could not fly back home. Since most international students live in dorms, the sudden announcement forced students to scramble for off-campus housing. 

However, some universities such as the University of California, San Diego and Georgia Technical University are allowing overseas students to remain on campus. If you are an international student concerned with whether to stay in shared housing on a college campus or find private housing elsewhere, check with your college’s admission counselor or International Office

Many US colleges and universities have stepped up to help students find alternate housing. They are also offering guidance on whether students should go home.

5. Build a Better Resume

Because of the ongoing recession, students graduating this year are facing challenges to secure employment. The situation is worse for international students. Considering how expensive higher education can be in a foreign country, most international students look forward to securing a job after they have earned a degree. Unfortunately, this year the economic crisis has dashed their hopes.

The first step to overcome any crisis lies in acceptance. Accept that the hiring process will move at a glacial pace due to the economic slowdown. But do not quit sending out applications.

Use this period to gain new skills. You can even check online courses that align with your career path. Apply for virtual internships. Realign your expectations so you are not frustrated easily. Some people do get hired during recessions too. Use the lockdown to work on yourself and build a strong resume.

6. Communication Is Key

The COVID-19 pandemic has dominated headlines since the start of 2020. It has created panic throughout the world. Markets have crashed, economies have collapsed, and a cloud of uncertainty has engulfed the globe.

For international students staying away from home, the situation might seem even more distressing. If you are experiencing anxiety because of the current situation, talk to your college and ask for help. College counselors can help you relieve stress considerably. 

7. Stay Focused on School

The spike in COVID-19 cases has prompted colleges to switch to online tutoring. This disruption can be overwhelming. But it is important to stay focused and avoid distractions during this phase.

Avoid lounging on the couch in your PJs, and treat it like a normal work-day instead. If anything, use this period to focus on your goals. Set up a daily routine and stick to it. If you are tired of being cooped up in the campus, step outside to take a walk or find other ways to take breaks.


What Will the Future Hold?

Whereas travel bans, remote classes, and the suspension of SAT and TOEFL tests will check student mobility in the short term, the recession will also cause the number of international students to drop in the long term.

Overseas education is expensive, especially for international students. Many survive on student loans and so it becomes necessary to secure a decent job after finishing their degree. And while colleges in the US are set to open for the fall semester, some or all classes may continue online.