Sept. 11, 2020 | By Riley Prillwitz | Photo by Patil Khakhamian
The pandemic brought uncertainty to almost everyone around the world. It was hard for people to truly know how much of their regular lives they could keep up. For international students studying in the U.S., the unknowns seemed unfathomable.
Fortunately, the International Students and Scholar Services (ISSS) team within Global Education at Colorado College has taken all of the uncertainties into consideration in order to help out CC’s international students as best they can.
Back in July, there was an initial announcement from Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) that international students who were not taking in-person classes were to return to their home countries. This caused a lot of backlash throughout the country, and schools fought back for their students.
Colorado College was one of those schools that fought to protect their international students still in the country. “We are disappointed and angered by these policies, which contradict our efforts to eliminate structural inequities, bias, and injustice. They are counter to Colorado College’s mission to be an antiracist institution,” read a statement at the time from acting co-presidents Mike Edmonds and Robert G. Moore.
Director of Global Education, Allen Bertsche, made sure that CC followed through with these guidelines. “During the July uproar about new SEVP guidelines, we retained our international students on campus and worked to rescind the new guidelines, provide info to our students, and options for the fall so that immigration rules would not be a reason for a student to be sent home,” Bertsche said.
Jacqui Hand ’21 is an international student who was worried about having to leave the country after ICE made its announcement. Yet the school made sure to keep international students in the loop and take care of them.
“Their response was super quick and I didn’t feel any stress towards the situation because the international directors were communicating with us regularly and making sure we knew that they would take care of us no matter our own personal situations,” Hand said. “It was definitely scary thinking I would have to leave the country, but the directors answered my worries efficiently and kept me feeling good about being able to continue my studies at CC while being in the U.S.”
“Looking at the new guidelines (the ones since rescinded) we did have some concerns that students would either not be able to return to campus, or those here might not qualify to stay,” Bertsche said. “But with those rules rescinded, and with new guidelines in place, we were able to work with the faculty, the Vice-Provost, and the Dean, to ensure that our plans for fall would provide the options needed so that our students could study from overseas if that is where they were, and that those on campus could study and remain free from immigration complications.”
Ultimately, the school never completely closed campus and was able to keep international students with their living accommodations. Food delivery, various campus activities, and the mailroom also stayed open for those students who remained on campus and could not return home.
“My quarantine experience on campus was much better than expected,” Hand said. “I was well taken care of and the quarantine went much faster than I thought it would. I was provided with food and housing as well as people checking up with me via email so it was as good as quarantine could be.”
As spring turned to summer and now fades into fall, some international students are still here and still trying to live life as normally as possible. Colorado College wants those students to feel comfortable and enjoy their time on campus.
“The ISSS team will be working with the Butler Center and Student Activities to ensure that there are events and activities throughout the fall which will appeal to our international students on campus,” Bertsche said. “Many of these will be virtual or small-group activities.”
The school also wants students to have access to resources that could help them work through emotions brought on my being so far from home during a global pandemic. Bertsche introduced a new addition to the Counseling Center that could be a useful tool for students.
“We also have … a new option for counseling from a local mental health professional who is a fluent Mandarin speaker (recognizing that half of our international population is from China),” Bertsche said. “He will be available for pop-in conversations or scheduled counseling appoints with all students (not just Chinese students).”
“I feel very comfortable and safe in my living situation on campus right now,” said Hand. “[ISSS] continues to provide us updates with our visas and the school situation and have made it clear that if we are on campus then we do not need to worry, which has been very helpful with me mentally to not worry about having to travel home during the pandemic.”
While international students who are currently on campus are being looked out for here in Colorado, the school is not planning on bringing international students who returned home back onto campus, as they may not be able to return due to travel restrictions and quarantine requirements still in place.
“We have asked that only students already in the USA or those who have immediate and unalterable travel plans to arrive for Block 2 make the trip to campus,” Bertsche said. “All others are being asked to spend the fall in their homes and enroll in online courses.”
All in all, the ISSS team has been working hard to make sure the international students at CC are well cared for during these uncertain times.
“As long as there are international students on campus,” Bertsche said, “we fully plan to offer them services, activities, contact points, resources, and support.”