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International Students’ Worries During the Pandemic

International students report higher levels of satisfaction with remote learning than their domestic peers, but they have concerns about issues of health, safety and immigration

Magazine, The Immigrant Experience,, Elizabeth Redden

International students report adapting well to remote instruction at higher rates than their American peers, but they have concerns about staying safe and healthy and about navigating the health-care and immigration systems during the coronavirus pandemic, according to a new survey of 22,519 undergraduate students and 7,690 graduate and professional students at five public research universities conducted by the Student Experience in the Research University (SERU) Consortium.

“International students’ biggest concerns are not with academics, not with remote instruction, but rather with the larger environment — health, safety and immigration,” said Igor Chirikov, the director of the SERU Consortium and senior researcher at the University of California, Berkeley’s Center for Studies in Higher Education.

Compared to their domestic peers, international students reported higher levels of satisfaction with the support they received from their instructors to successfully learn online, higher levels of satisfaction with the overall quality of their courses that were moved online and higher levels of satisfaction with their university’s overall response to the pandemic.

Their primary concerns lie elsewhere. The top five concerns cited by international students were:

  • Maintaining good health while in the U.S. (cited by 52 percent of international undergraduate students and 67 percent of international graduate students)
  • Managing immigration status and visa issues (cited by 44 percent of international undergraduate students and 55 percent of international graduate students)
  • Having adequate financial support (cited by 36 percent of international undergraduate students and 49 percent of international graduate students)
  • Understanding U.S. medical insurance and obtaining health services (cited by 35 percent of international undergraduate students and 53 percent of international graduate students)
  • Securing a job in the U.S. after graduation (cited by 28 percent of international undergraduate students and 51 percent of international graduate students).

In regards to immigration and employment issues, international students reported concerns about managing their student visa status; travel restrictions between the U.S. and their home countries; the impact on future employment-based visas, such as H-1B visas; and navigating the optional practical training program, which allows international students to work in the U.S. for up to three years after graduating while remaining on their student visas.

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