Pandemic leaves international student community with worries over status, finances

Anthony Lucido, Staff Reporter

With the spread of COVID-19 and De Anza College’s closure and move to online classes, international students are concerned about their status in the U.S.

In an email sent from the district, international students were informed that if they chose to leave for the spring quarter to go back to their home country and did not return until fall, their status for authorized early withdrawal would be terminated.

In addition, they would also have to reapply to De Anza, obtain a new F-1 visa and repay international student fees.

Despite this, some students still express wanting to go back to their home country.

“I actually want to go home,” said Hyunji An, 21, cognitive science major, “I’m from Korea and I think I would be safer there as I believe I can get better treatments and care over there in case I get the virus.”

According to Jennifer Brook, Director of International Student Recruitment and Marketing for Foothill and De Anza Colleges, international students can return to their home country and attend De Anza via online courses, due to temporary changes to F-1 student visa regulations made by the U.S. government.

Through this change, international students outside of the U.S. will be able to maintain their F-1 status in the spring quarter, as long as they register for at least 12 units. Students can only take one fully online course, and the rest have to be categorized as a hybrid course.

Even with the ability to maintain their F-1 visa outside the U.S. and their desire to go home, An and many international students face difficulties with going back, such as the sudden financial cost which many international students may not be able to afford.

Another concern for international students is how the situation will affect international students’ education.

“I seriously considered dropping all courses and going home a week ago, but then I saw from the news and social media about how crowded the airports are,” said Duy Quoc Le Nguyen, 25, design major, “I’m stuck here, and I don’t know how I’m going to transfer to other schools given the current situation.”

International students are also worried over the effect the situation has on their ability to work and afford housing.

Due to F-1 visa regulations, international students are only able to legally work on campus and with the campus closed, many international students without work.

“I was planning on working on campus in spring quarter, because as an international student I can only work on campus, so lo’ and behold, I’m jobless,” said Andre Zambrana, 20, game design major.

With no work, many international students are put into difficult housing situations.

“I currently rent a bedroom in Santa Clara, but about two weeks ago I had to temporarily move in and live with my friend in San Francisco.,” said Nguyen, “I can’t even imagine how other international students are dealing with this situation, as most of us rent a room or share rooms. Renting and finding apartments in the bay is already hard as is.”