Going into the summer vacation, many are wondering what the Fall semester will look like in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic. While many schools reacted to the pandemic and stay-at-home orders by transitioning classes to be online, they are now working hard to get ahead of the virus for the next academic year. Some ideas for the Fall semester include longer class days, shortening the term, or scheduling a planned transition to online classes around the time of Thanksgiving in November.
The creation of protocols to social distance and the changes of class schedules open the potential for additional challenges for students – especially international students, as we have yet to see how travel in and out of the United States will occur. However even in the face of challenge, international students understand the value of studying in the United States and share their experience.
Meet Revanth. As an international student pursing his master’s in data science, Revanth is from India and studies at University of Alabama Birmingham. When the pandemic broke out, Revanth did not try to return to his home country, “because that [was] not safe either.” So instead, he remained in the U.S., continued his education online, and still plans to apply for OPT upon graduation.
Revanth has experienced much of what it is like to be an international student in the United States. Now in a graduate program, he understands the hesitancy that many students feel when deciding to continue their education after their undergraduate degree. He explains how many people think master’s programs in the United States are too difficult to handle. Revanth feels however, “it is not that tough.” To Revanth, as long as you work hard and put in the time, you will do well and find success.
“Professors will help to boost you. They give you a kick start and then you’re on your own.”
The teaching methods in the United States are what Revanth truly appreciates. He explains it as “very practical here… not too much book learning.” In comparison to schooling in his home country of India, he finds it motivating and worthwhile. He appreciates the challenge involved and urges others to embrace it, as well. Students are encouraged to work hard and learn from experience, if you are willing to put in the time and work hard, you will thrive.
When asked how the pandemic has most affected him, Revanth immediately thought of the upcoming Fall semester. His school might begin the semester online, so he “won’t see the classroom… won’t be able to meet American friends.” The entire college experience may be done in a very different way; therefore, students everywhere are anxiously awaiting to hear the plans and protocols set by their school for the Fall semester.
We are seeing various plans and ideas throughout the United States. The entirety of the California State University system, the largest public university system in the country, has already decided to be online for the Fall semester, along with multiple schools of Harvard University. Other states are hopeful to not have to create a statewide plan such as this; however, the current situation of businesses reopening in stages may alter their plans. For example, the state of Florida saw an increase in COVID-19 cases as a result of beginning to reopen. In the first five days of June alone, over four thousand people throughout the U.S. died from coronavirus. These ongoing cases and determinations will continue to affect the plans for schools across the country.
Schools that return to in-person classes in the Fall, even if it is for a predetermined period of time, will provide trainings for students on the importance of sanitation, mask-wearing, and social distancing. Regardless of what happens at each specific school, students must remember the potential of studying and pursuing an education in the United States. Like Revanth, stay motivated, trust your abilities, and set plans for the future.