Campus members reflect on international student experience in past year

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Hsi-Min Chan/Staff
Virtual learning brought with it a host of unique challenges for international students. Members of the campus community reflected on these difficulties, advocating for greater accommodations in the future.

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As campus classes and operations are underway to transition back to fully in-person instruction, some of UC Berkeley’s ASUC senators have alleged that international students continue to be adversely impacted by the pandemic in unique ways.

With the fall 2020 school year being mostly online, international students faced obstacles  that students residing in the United States often did not have; time zone differences and a lack of support from the campus community were among some of students’ main concerns.

“Students often needed to wake up at 2 AM at midnight just to attend class synchronously,” said ASUC Senator Jerry Xu, who represents international and East Asian campus communities, in an email. “Some faculties also did not provide sufficient academic accommodations for international students in terms of office hours and midterms.”

Xu added that, while most students have returned to in-person classes this semester, those who are still studying from abroad continue to struggle with time zone differences. He alleged campus is “reluctant to make any improvements” to assist these students.

ASUC Senator Amy Chen, who also represents international and East Asian communities, noted international students feel a “lack of support” from the campus administration in regards to California legislation’s proposal to increase the population of in-state students by decreasing the number of out-of-state students admitted into campus, UCLA and UC San Diego.

“I am very disappointed to see how the campus is sacrificing its diversity and inclusion, along with an increase in tuition that further exploits my community,” Chen said in an email.

According to campus spokesperson Janet Gilmore, there was not a significant change in the number of international students admitted during the pandemic.

However, there was a drop of about 100 undergraduate international students enrolled on campus in fall 2020.

“The drop in international undergraduate enrollment last year led to a decline in tuition revenue of more than $2.5 million — or approximately 10% of the total tuition and fee revenue our campus lost due to COVID-19,” Gilmore said in an email.

Gilmore added the tuition from international students in future semesters will help “contribute to the campus’s financial recovery.”

Berkeley International Office Director Ivor Emmanuel stated in an email all services provided by the office, besides in-person programs, are available to all international students regardless of place of residence.

“(Information Services Technology) has just obtained funding to improve network connectivity for international students studying from abroad so students should see some improvement in their ability to access online classes from outside the U.S.,” Gilmore said in an email.

Chen and Xu said their respective offices have established various programs to assist international students during this time.

However, they believe campus administration should do more to support international students and emphasize that they are also part of the campus community.

“The school should also take more active actions in ensuring campus safety, fighting against xenophobia, providing more academic resources for students, and advocating for international students’ rights at the state and federal levels,” Xu said in an email.

Karen Vo is the lead student life reporter. Contact her at [email protected], and follow her on Twitter at @karenvo_DC.