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How colleges are supporting international students during the COVID-19 pandemic

Posted: 3:21 PM, Mar 25, 2020
Updated: 2020-03-26 08:32:29-04

BOISE, Idaho — Universities are moving to an online platform that allows the majority of students to go home and be with their families, but what about students whose families are thousands of miles away?

“Obviously there are exceptions, students who have travel restrictions, health-related issues, inadequate internet access for wherever their home is, homelessness could also be a reason," said dean of students at the College of Idaho Paul Bennion.

Another big reason is to support their international students, who may be unable to get home due to the pandemic.

“Twenty percent of our students are international from 90 different countries, so its a diverse group of international students so you can imagine the array of concerns that are presented," said Bennion.

The College of Idaho and Boise State are offering essential services to students who remain on campus like food, campus safety, and facilities for sanitizing and cleaning. Wellness and mental health services are also deemed essential.

“Obviously, on the health side to make sure people are okay but also on the counseling side of things so they’re doing their best to make sure they can continue to provide counseling to students," said Bennion.

Boise State is keeping its international students together virtually while keeping up with their mental health needs.

“We’re doing weekly google session hangouts and inviting all students to be a part of that, and we have a counselor from our mental health services department, and they’ve been in on those hangouts," said international student coordinator at Boise State Keith Quatraro.

The services are meant to have more one on one time with counselors while students navigate this confusing situation. The College of Idaho has heard from students experiencing COVID-related hardships first-hand.

“One student pops right to mind you know she’s been impacted by a few deaths in her extended family as a result of the pandemic," said Bennion.

Both colleges have some international students back in their home countries. They’re working with students on adjusting schedules since all classes remain in Mountain Time.

“What I advised them is to just work with their professors, because their professors are their biggest ally and I’ve heard food things, their professors have been very willing," said Quatraro.

Should restrictions last until summer, the College of Idaho also has a program in place for students where they can work on campus in exchange for housing and support.

The universities say with the online capabilities, they are confident their international and domestic students will stay on track.