EduVenture - Advising Incoming Indian Students August 2020

Redefining ‘Normal’ in COVID-19

The journey of attaining a higher education abroad can be daunting even in ideal circumstances. To initiate this journey -- or postpone it -- in the midst of a pandemic must be even more harrowing.

Therefore, the India Student Hub (“ISHUBUS”) has compiled an Incoming Indian Students Advice Series to help you familiarise yourself with the rich education experience that awaits you when you can finally step on campus. This series of blogs compiled by undergraduate and graduate students is informed by the perspectives of academics, advisors and professionals to help you understand how COVID-19 will shape Fall 2020 and also on how to plan for the journey ahead.

Visa requirements

COVID-19 has introduced unique obstacles for universities and students around the world. We understand that newly enrolled international students whose universities are operating entirely online this fall may not be allowed to enter the US.

Additionally, at the time of writing, US Embassy/Consulates in India are closed and are currently not issuing visas, even if you can prove you have in-person classes. Thus, students outside of the United States will not be able to participate in person for on campus activities in Fall 2020.

University responses

US universities may fall under one of the following categories for Fall 2020:

  1. Those who plan to go fully remote/online with no in-person classes.

  2. Those who plan to reopen the campus for in-person classes with social distancing regulations in place.

  3. Those who are going ‘hybrid’ -- having a mix of both online and in-person classes. For international students unable to travel to the US, you may still be a part of the hybrid model through remote learning from India.

Keep in mind that the response to the upcoming fall semester is still fluid and subject to change based on community health considerations and local, state, national and international regulations/policies. You should carefully read your university’s emails and newsletters, regularly visit your university’s and its city and state’s websites and stay in touch with your university’s Designated School Official (DSO) to keep yourself abreast of any new developments. A DSO is a person at your university’s International Student & Scholar Office that deals with F-1 student matters, communicates with the United States Student Exchange and Visitor Program (SEVP), updates student records and advises students on maintaining their visa status. You should also be well-informed about your university’s COVID-19 standard operating procedures -- including housing, testing, quarantine/isolation, dining and attending classes -- to help you decide what is best for you.

If you have not yet finalised whether you wish to defer your admission or study remotely this fall, you should consult your DSO and your academic advisor before taking the decision.

Healthcare

Healthcare -- especially during a pandemic -- is of utmost importance. Availing healthcare in the United States can be expensive. Universities generally require all enrolled international students to enroll in a student health insurance plan. If you plan to be on-campus, whether in the Fall or Spring semester, you should carefully read your student health insurance plan to understand its coverage of COVID-19 testing/care and other healthcare services. You should also inquire with your university how you can avail these services if needed. If you plan to study remotely, you should check with your university if you still have to be enrolled for your student health insurance plan.

Online learning

Even though you might not be on campus, you may have opted for remote learning. Online learning is conducted through video conferencing tools and is different from the traditional classroom setting. It is essential to be mindful of the time difference between India and the multiple time zones in the United States. It is also helpful to inform your professors/instructors if you are studying remotely from India so they might accommodate your remote-learning needs.

Introducing the Advice Series

The India Student Hub will cover the following topics as part of this advice series:

Offering Your Knowledge and Perspective to the World

Welcome to what promises to be an interesting journey! We hope you use this experience to find yourself and make a valuable contribution to India and to the world.