As California continues to confront the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, international UC Berkeley students have the opportunity to build community and receive mentorship with alumni support even thousands of miles from campus.
Given the current global public health crisis, campus spokesperson Janet Gilmore said UC Berkeley is not arranging activities for international students staying abroad at this time. Other organizations and alumna Cher Wang, however, are offering various ways for international students to engage with the UC Berkeley community even off campus.
As the co-founder and chair of HTC Corporation, an electronics manufacturing company, Wang offered an HTC facility in Taipei as a study space for students residing in Taiwan. At the facility, students have access to different amenities such as a coffee shop, canteen, small meeting rooms and more, according to Gilmore.
Although intended as a response to the fall semester being online, the facility may remain open as a study space in the spring as well depending on how the pandemic evolves, Gilmore said. Other alumni are also supporting students during this time, she added.
“Alumni have played a vital role in supporting the Student Emergency Fund,” Gilmore said in an email. “In fiscal year 2020, more than $1.3 million was raised for the Student Emergency Fund from more than 3,400 gifts and pledges, plus a $1 million commitment to support student emergency financial aid from alumna Kathy Kwan.”
Alumni are also offering support for international students in the form of mentorship.
International Student Mentorship Program, or ISMP, a nonprofit organization with a chapter at UC Berkeley, will continue to offer mentorship for students virtually. Through ISMP, international undergraduate and graduate students can find a mentor to help them with academics, adapting to American culture, time management and more, according to Nancy Huang, an ISMP Bay Area campus director and mentor.
“Both me and Nancy and most of our mentors, we were international students back at Cal and we understand the struggles international students face,” said Josh Yeung, an ISMP mentor. “Nowadays more than ever, given the political climate and just the COVID challenges that’s going on, we just want to be here as a support and resource to international students.”
Interested international students can fill out an application at any point in the semester to be paired with a mentor, according to Huang.
After an introductory call, Huang said mentees will meet with their mentors at least once a week for six weeks and can decide after that whether they want to continue.
“We want to make our program as accessible to them as possible,” Huang said. “In this way, even in the midst of a pandemic, they know that there are people who care for them who want to support them.”