When virtual instruction first began back in March, Long Beach State international student Anudit Verma considered going back home to New Delhi, India, as coronavirus cases in California began to climb rapidly.
“It would have been hard to get up in the early morning in India and it would be a completely different time in California,” said Verma, a second-year computer science major.
The time difference is just one of the challenges that international students face if they decide to go back home during a semester of virtual instruction at CSULB. Verma faces a 12-hour time difference between India and California.
According to Jeet Joshee, dean of International Education, the department is figuring out the best way for international students to take classes virtually at CSULB.
“In the spring we’re advising our students to carefully select courses where they could really attend the classes,” Joshee said.
Joshee also said that there may be less synchronous classes next semester for international students.
Some international students have considered taking a semester, or even an entire year, off, but others are concerned with how a gap year appears on their academic record.
“I don’t want there to be a gap on my record because of the pandemic,” said Aileen Lai, a third-year international student from Taiwan majoring in nutrition dietetics. “If you go back [home], you’re stopping your education. I don’t want to stop moving.”
According to Corry Colonna, executive director of Housing and Residential Life, international students are invited to reside on campus during the pandemic, as current housing options are limited.
Verma said he is currently living in a two-bedroom apartment with four other international students near campus while Lai is living in an off-campus apartment with her sister.
“We know that many were able to go to their home countries, but as the pandemic got worse here in the U.S., [they] were not able to return [to campus] for studies,” Colonna said. “We recognize that some were not able to return to their home countries over the summer, so they lived with us, and some of those students have then continued to live with us.”
When virtual instruction began abruptly last spring, about 10% of international students went back to their home country, according to Joshee. Currently, there are about 1,200 continuing international students at CSULB, with 90% residing in or around the Long Beach area.
Joshee said he anticipates that next semester will have a lower amount of international students attending the university, predicting only around 100 new admissions.
Since applications are already closed for next semester, Joshee said the international recruitment office is already preparing for how they can improve fall 2021 enrollment numbers.
President Jane Close Conoley said that the fall 2020 semester is the deciding factor for most international students on whether or not they should return.
“The ones who have never taken an online course before, some of them are really struggling with motivation,” Conoley said. “Everybody is doing the best they can right now.”