Students from foreign countries attending college in the U.S. have been among those hardest hit by the uncertainties and disruptions all students are facing because of COVID-19. To help address the needs of international students enrolled at New York Tech, the Office of International and Experiential Education quickly developed two platforms to help assuage the concerns and anxieties the pandemic has caused.
Chris Olagunju, assistant director of international education, created a series of weekly Zoom meetings where students can share resources and get answers to their questions regarding visas, travel, employment, and other concerns. The meetings, which began on April 7, thus far have reviewed current COVID-19 policies from U.S. Immigrations and Customs Enforcement (ICE), updates and changes from ICE and the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and travel advisories, followed by discussions of what these updates and changes mean for F-1 students.
“The weekly meetings, which have drawn 20-30 students who’ve asked numerous questions, provide a forum for them to express fears and frustrations and to receive up-to-date information that keeps them in status for their visas,” said Amy Bravo, M.A., senior director of IEE. “Many of these students must check in to report on employment so that their records can be updated in the SEVIS system. COVID-19 has disrupted normal reporting processes, and political immigration changes create uncertainty for our students and graduates.”
In late March, IEE also scheduled regular “meet-ups” on Thursday mornings at 10 a.m. for all New York Tech students as a safe community space for students to interact with each other and the staff. Initially, members of the IEE checked in with the students, answered their general questions, and shared music, reading, and game recommendations. Bravo notes that the meetings of 20 or so participants have evolved into another way for international students to seek guidance about traveling home or returning to the U.S., summer/fall registration, graduation, and employment.
Currently, New York Tech has 1,223 international students in addition to 910 international Optional Practical Training (OPT) graduates who are allowed to work in the U.S. for 1-3 years while New York Tech monitors and tracks their progress for the duration of their OPT.