International Students Face the COVID-19 Crisis

By Natalia Bogdanov 
Staff Writer

City College’s transition to an online class format does not directly affect international students’ F-1 visas, however, some international students have serious financial concerns, some are experiencing heightened racial discrimination, some have health coverage complications, and others have resorted to dropping their classes as a result. 

Matheus Maynard, a sophomore international student from Brazil majoring in Journalism and Geography, said, “I didn’t drop any courses yet, but I’m thinking about it. I’m taking 18 units this semester, and doing it from an online format is even harder than physically being there everyday.” 

Gur said that she has not seriously considered moving back to Turkey because “I only have one more semester to graduate. So I am not considering it, at least for now. However, there is a lot of uncertainty going on so it may change with my direction and thoughts,” she said. 

Maynard said that he’s “not really considering moving back just yet. I thought of going back if things got bad here,  but the virus is everywhere. There would be no point.”

Megan Cheung, a Broadcasting and Electronic Media major, is also slightly indecisive about moving back to Hong Kong. 

“I’m still in America but my family is very worried about me and we have talked about whether or not I should move back,” she said. “But since there were crowds moving back, I decided taking that flight might be dangerous so I stayed. But it seems the situation in America keeps getting worse, so I don’t know at the moment if I will decide to move back later.”

There are a lot of concerns regarding personal finances and being fully capable to afford living in the Bay Area throughout the shelter-in-place period. 

International student and Hotel Management major Gizem Gur’s “major concern is to pay my rent and tuition, because my family and I are having financial difficulties due to COVID-19.”

In these unforeseen circumstances, work authorization may be permitted to some international students by the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS)  if they apply and meet the requirements. All information and applications is available on the USCIS website

However, the unemployment rate has been dramatically increasing due to the shelter-in-place mandates. According to NBC Bay Area, the “Bay Area July unemployment rates contributed to a statewide rate of 4.1 percent.” The likelihood of finding a job amidst this pandemic is seemingly very low. 

A prominent area of concern for Maynard is health insurance and he believes this is also true for a lot of international students. Maynard does “not know how much my International Student Health Insurance would cover if I needed to be hospitalized. I know that they cover testing, but I have no idea about treatment.”

In Maynard’s home country, Brazil, “we have universal health care. And in the U.S. it’s super expensive even if you have health insurance,” Maynard said. “Also, international students don’t have any access to federal or state assistance.”

Another prominent area of concern is the lack of hands-on experience compared to what students would normally experience throughout this semester. This may severely limit the quality of education students are able to receive depending upon their field of study. 

For Gur, her Hotel Management “major leans heavily on practical experiences, so I am worried about not fulfilling those experiences properly.”

This pandemic is also affecting the preparation stages for the fall 2020 semester classes. For Gur this “next semester is going to be my last semester and we are required to do an internship to gain experience in the industry. It hasn’t been canceled yet, but we do not have much info about what it’s going to be next semester,” she said.

Megan Cheung also stated that the pandemic brought about more racial discrimination against San Franciso’s Asian community. She said that one of her Asian roommates, Alvin Chu, was attempting to ride the SF Muni to the City College campus and was refused to be let on by the driver for simply wearing a mask. 

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