Support for International Students During COVID

The International Students Office (ISO) at Glendale Community College where four counselors and three staff are working, was always crowded even before the COVID-19 pandemic. ISO offers counseling on both academics and immigration for the nearly 600 international students studying at GCC. However, during the pandemic, the number of students returning to their home countries has increased, and many immigration problems have resulted. 

How does ISO resolve such problems?

Now, students can receive online counseling even when outside the United States. Nusha Shishegar, immigration advisor for international students at the ISO said, “I talk to students and find out exactly what the issue is, and then, depending on what the issue is, I present them immigration actions that they have.”

She and other ISO counselors discuss with students and identify their situation, then giving them some options.

“Students who want to return [home] want to know if they can take classes part-time from their home countries. I would talk to them about how that affects their immigration status and give them the options and then we go from there” Shishegar said. She looked hard to explain a very specific thing because it depends on what the students are asking about. In other words, questions she receives from students are broad and each student’s situation is different.

“When I get a question from a student, I divide it into three categories: enrollment, working and travel. I advise students about what happens in each of those big buckets” she said. International students can take classes from somewhere unless they are enrolled in 12 units. However, ISO advises the risk for OPT (Optional Practical Training) and transfer to a university. OPT is an employment system that allows international students to work temporarily. In addition, they tell students how it affects their visa and returning to the U.S.

New international students cannot enter the U.S. until schools resume in-person classes. They can be GCC students, but may not have F-1 immigration status. Shishegar said, “New students are able to apply for OPT after graduation or CPT (Curricular Practical Training) during their [studies] so they can start taking classes, but until they can come physically to the U.S., they don’t qualify for the time. There is no time that gets counted towards those benefits so we recommend they take classes part-time for our overseas students.”

ISO is constantly emailing international students about GCC events and workshops. ISO also organizes workshops in which students can exchange their situation and other information. 

ISO is a necessary source of support for international students whose educations have been impacted by COVID-19.

Reona Iwamoto can be reached at [email protected]