Category Archives: COVID-19

COVID-19 Survey Reports: Impact on International Students

A recent survey conducted by the Student Experience in the Research University (SERU) Consortium at the Center for Studies in Higher Education at the University of California, Berkeley,  the findings of which were published on Wednesday, July 1, 2020, “The coronavirus pandemic that shut down university campuses across the globe this spring has heightened concerns among many international students enrolled in United States institutions regarding their personal safety.”

Participants in the survey include 22,519 undergraduate students and 7,690 graduate and professional students at five public research universities in the United States. Of those surveyed, 77% have remained in the U.S. during the COVID-19 global pandemic, while the others have returned to their home countries.

Here are key highlights from this survey:

  • Overall, international graduate and professional students were more likely than undergraduates to acknowledge worries.
  • Maintaining good health was cited as a top priority for two-thirds of graduate and professional students and more than half of international undergraduates
  • Managing immigration status and visas was another concern as cited by 55% of graduate students and 44% of undergraduates.
  • Having adequate financial support was a concern shared by almost half (49%) of graduate students and 36% of undergraduate
  • Understanding US medical insurance and obtaining health services was a concern shared by 53% of international graduate students and 35% of undergraduates.
  • Travel restrictions were of concern to 61% of graduate and professional students versus 45% of undergraduates.
  • More than half (55%) of international graduate students and 43% of undergraduates said instances of xenophobia had affected their mental health.
  • 30% of international undergraduates and 29$ of graduate students said they had experienced offensive behavior that affected their relationship with their US peers or friends
  • 17% of international undergraduates and 22% of graduate studies said they the offensive behavior they experienced affected their academic or professional performance
  • 13% of international undergraduate and 18% of graduates said these negative experiences were more likely to not complete their degree program.
  • 54% of international undergraduates and 56% of graduates expressed a lack of motivation as an obstacle to adjust to online instruction
  • 44% of international undergraduate and 55 % of graduates cited the absence of interacting with other students as a concern
  • Approximately four in ten international undergraduates who left the U.S. said they were unable to attend online classes mostly because of time zone differences.

As the policy brief of the survey said: “We must recognize the toll that instances of xenophobia, harassment and discrimination have on international students. The effects bleed over into international students’ feelings of safety, their mental health and their relationships with US peers or friends.”

Sources:

SERU COVID-19 Survey Policy Briefs

University World News

Inside Higher Education

The Academic Credentials Evaluation Institute, Inc. (ACEI), was founded in 1994 and is based in Los Angeles, California, USA.  ACEI is a full-service company providing complete and integrated services in the areas of international education research, credential evaluation, and translation. ACEI’s Global Consulting Group®, offers expertise in the following specialties: Media and Branding, Global Pathways, and Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) to interested institutions and organizations around the globe. www.acei-global.org

1 Comment

Filed under COVID-19, credentialevaluation, Credentials, Education, evaluation, History, Human Interest, international education, international students, News, Politics, study abroad, technology, Travel

Dispatches from Arizona during the Time of COVID-19

Written by: Laura Sippel

As I write this in my home office in Arizona, there are news reports that Arizona is the second highest state to have the most spikes in COVID-19 cases in a single day. My husband and I have been self-quarantining ourselves since March. As my profession is marketing for expert organizations related to credential evaluation and applied comparative education research, these have been very trying times.

According to NBC News, “Coronavirus hospitalizations in Arizona have hit record numbers as cases continue to surge in states in the South and the West, overwhelming medical professionals.” Arizona reported a record high of 3,591 new cases Tuesday, June 23, 2020 – with nearly 60,000 known cases in the state overall.  Some of the people hit hard by the pandemic are in rural areas.

11% of the White Mountain Apache Tribe population in Pinetop, just north of downtown Phoenix, have tested positive for COVID-19. According to AZ Family News, the number of cases per capita is now outpacing the sprawling Navajo Nation, which has been a COVID-19 hot spot.

The Navajo Department of Health reports 7,045 cases out of a population of approximately 173,000, according to 2010 Census data. The White Mountain Apache tribal community will go on a 57-hour lockdown starting June 26, 2020, followed by a shelter-in-place order. Tribal leaders are also prepared to use the police and the courts to force people into quarantine. The council approved converting part of the Hon-Dah casino-hotel in Pinetop into a site for both voluntary and involuntary quarantine.

Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey encouraged people to continue to physically distance and wear masks when they could not stay home if they were sick. He acknowledged the rise in cases, but said there had also been an increase in testing. “We’ve increased testing in Arizona 600 percent since April 15, we’ve more than doubled testing since we lifted the stay-at-home order, so we’re going to continue the focus there,” he said. “But we’re also seeing an increase in positivity, which tells us that the virus continues to spread.”

It has certainly been some challenging times and I’ve been searching for a way to cope and have found it in my international higher education community.

Today I attended the fourth session of Academic Credentials Evaluation Institute, Inc. (ACEI) Mindful Minutes with ACEI – Safe Space, Virtual Place. ACEI President and CEO, Mrs. Jasmin Saidi-Kuehnert said, “ACEI’s Mindful Minutes provides a moment of rest and refueling in these times of upheaval. In today’s session, we utilized the mind-body connection to foster personal stability. Practicing mindfulness in community, we interact with care for connection. This session was geared toward helping us all meet this moment with inner courage.”

ACEI’s guest speaker is Abby Wills who is an educator with an MA in Human Development. Abby has over twenty years of experience in integrating mindful practices for social emotional health into a wide diversity of school settings through direct service to learners and educators throughout Los Angeles and internationally.

These sessions focus on our mental health during the challenges and uncertainties of these times which can be overwhelming. Jasmin continued, “self-care is crucial right now. To effectively navigate our way through the unknown, we need to first take care of our own well-being, before we can help our loved ones, co-workers, students, applicants.”

As a community, we are directly addressing the changes and gaining an understanding of how individuals and institutions are managing change in higher education. Amid the COVID-19 pandemic, colleges and universities have worked diligently and creatively to bring students back to the United States to complete their academic programs online. Professionals are banding together to provide roundtable discussions and sessions on international policy issues, international credential document fraud, updating online resources for admissions, how to think differently during a time of crisis, sustainable online databases available and how to use them, and much more.

We are also learning how to adapt to a virtual world. While virtual education abroad may not substitute a direct experience abroad, it may be increasingly relied upon to engage students for effective education abroad programming. Our professional organizations are providing excellent up-to-date travel information, while others have kept us informed of the endless changing immigration policies.

Our profession has addressed our need for a solid, steady and predictable world during these uncertain times. By collaborating closely with colleagues, education abroad program providers, and international university partners; organizations and institutions are adapting academic standards and set practices to accommodate changes.

According to Inside Higher Education, members of the higher education community are supporting front-line workers fighting the coronavirus pandemic. “Whether it’s repurposing university-owned equipment to decontaminate N95 masks, mixing hand sanitizer in chemistry labs for use by hospitals, collecting supplies of personal protective equipment — of which there is a critical national shortage — or babysitting health-care workers’ children, professionals in higher education and the students they serve have found all kinds of ways to help.”

Everyone goes into this field wanting to help others.

Abby said today’s Mindful Minutes with ACEI, “being mindful is simple, but it’s not easy. None of us are alone in this experience. Keep each other in mind and heart.”

I am so very grateful for our community. Be safe and be well.

P.S. If interested, you can listen to the recordings of ACEI’s Mindful Minutes Sessions by clicking here and scrolling down to “Presentations.” You won’t be disappointed!

Laura Sippel is President of Laura Sippel Dynamic Consulting. She has more than 25 years of experience in marketing in higher education. She is the Director of Marketing and Communication for The Association of International Credential Evaluators (AICE) and is a member of ACEI’s Global Consulting Group www.acei-global-consulting.org.

The Academic Credentials Evaluation Institute, Inc. (ACEI), was founded in 1994 and is based in Los Angeles, California, USA.  ACEI is a full-service company providing complete and integrated services in the areas of international education research, credential evaluation, and translation. ACEI’s Global Consulting Group®, offers expertise in the following specialties: Media and Branding, Global Pathways, and Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) to interested institutions and organizations around the globe. www.acei-global.org

Leave a comment

Filed under COVI-19, COVID-19, credentialevaluation, Credentials, Education, evaluation, Human Interest, international education, international students, Language, News, Politics, study abroad, technology, Travel

Sino-U.S. Relations and its Impact on Chinese Students

About 400,000 Chinese students were studying in the U.S. as of April 2020 before the COVID-19 pandemic brought the country and the globe to a halt.  With the closing of schools and universities, Chinese students began making plans to return home during the coronavirus pandemic. The virus alone cannot be blamed as the only source for the exodus of the Chinese students from the US. There’s also a concerted effort by the U.S. government to deter Chinese students from coming to America to study. Every day we receive news of yet another obstacle.

No need to elaborate. The links shown below will direct you to articles discussing the latest actions taken against students from China.

1. Suspension of Passenger Flights by Chinese Airlines to and from the United States. To read more, click here

2. Proposed legislation that would bar Chinese students from pursuing graduate studies in STEM. To read more, click here

3. U.S. cancels visas to students with ties to universities connected to Chinese military, To read more, click here

4. The writing was on the wall. Refer to the talk given by Assistant Secretary of State, Mary Royce at the 2019 Education USA Forum in Washington, DC. Ms.   Royce painted a disturbing picture of Chinese students studying at U.S. institutions. Her message was less of a message of welcome but a warning. To read more, click here

 

The Academic Credentials Evaluation Institute, Inc. (ACEI), was founded in 1994 and is based in Los Angeles, California, USA.  ACEI is a full-service company providing complete and integrated services in the areas of international education research, credential evaluation, and translation. ACEI’s Global Consulting Group®, offers expertise in the following specialties: Media and Branding, Global Pathways, and Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) to interested institutions and organizations around the globe. www.acei-global.org

Leave a comment

Filed under China, COVID-19, credentialevaluation, Education, Human Interest, international education, international students, News, Politics, study abroad, Travel

8 Benefits to Virtual Fairs

The Academic Credentials Evaluation Institute, Inc. (ACEI), was founded in 1994 and is based in Los Angeles, CA, USA.  ACEI is a full-service company providing complete and integrated services in the areas of international education research, credential evaluation, and translation. ACEI’s Global Consulting Group®, offers expertise in the following specialties: Media and Branding, Global Pathways, and Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) to interested institutions and organizations around the globe. www.acei-global.org

 

Leave a comment

Filed under Arts, COVID-19, festival, Film, Gratitude, Human Interest, Music, News, technology, Travel

Dispatches from Mar Vista, Los Angeles, CA during COVID-19 Lockdown

Witten by: Jasmin Saidi-Kuehnert

By the time this blog is posted, it will be day 44 since Los Angeles county issued its shelter in place order. The skies have never been clearer and traffic on the infamous 405 Freeway is almost nonexistent. The air is sweet, yes, I never expected to use the word “sweet” in connection with Los Angeles air quality. The city seems calm, and like the rest of the world our planet is taking a deep breath as we shelter in place.

On March 19th, as soon as our city’s mayor made the shelter in place announcement, I instructed my team at the ACEI headquarters to pack up their essentials as we would be working remotely from home.  We weren’t caught off guard or surprised by this news.  A month prior to the lock-down order, our COO had ordered laptops for all our in-house team in preparation and anticipation of just this scenario. The next day, like clockwork, we were all online and in communication with our international applicants and institutional clients. Applications for evaluation were being processed via our online portal and academic documents were being received digitally from institutions and recognized platforms. Twice a week, I visit the office with one other member of our team, mindful of keeping our socially recommended distance of 6 feet, which is easy to do in our spacious loft workspace.

The ACEI team is working harder than ever, responding to queries from our applicants from around the world via our online chat, emails and phone. We hold daily video chats as our end of day wrap-up. We try to keep the humor in our uncertain world by playing around with the background imagery of our video chat platform.  Our COO prefers a lush landscape of rolling hills, while the rest of our crew including myself, seem to be partial to space inspired motifs, which is something new for me as I’m not a SciFi fan. But it seems that images of futuristic cities and galaxies far far away are befitting of the current surreal state of our world.

As soon as the world and us went into collective lockdown, we knew that we were going to experience all levels of emotions, from anxiety, to panic, fear, anger, frustration, euphoria, exhaustion, malaise, serenity, denial, and back to panic and uncertainty. Immediately, we decided to start hosting a free weekly webcast we named “Mindful Minutes with ACEI.” We set these webcasts as a safe virtual place for our coworkers, colleagues, friends and family to join to share their stories, how they were coping and what they were feeling. We invited guest speakers who offered insights and techniques we could practice in our daily lives to return to a place of inner peace, no matter how fleeting.

My first week of working at home, something I hadn’t done since I founded ACEI in 1994 from my one-bedroom apartment, was challenging as I was having a difficult time situating myself in a place I could call my home office.  Finally, I joined my husband, also working from home, and equally divided the dining table as his and hers offices. We have been very mindful of our invisible boundaries and have had zero border skirmishes.  It is strange though how life can do a 360 and I find myself in a similar situation as the day I started ACEI, that is; working from home, though now I have a team of loyal and dedicated employees whom I’m responsible for and who look to me for guidance, moral support and hope.

I do keep my daily routine. I wake up early as before, shower, get dressed, meditate, have breakfast and step into my “office” formerly the dining room, and start the “work” day. I go for long walks in the afternoons after I step away from my “office,” and take a 20-minute nap. The daily mini naps have been a godsend.

I mentioned this earlier, and it needs to be said again, that exhaustion seems to be the common denominator amongst everyone I speak with and those who attend our webcasts and the comments I see on social media. We are being pushed to self-reflect and one thing that is becoming clear is that the uncertainty we feel today has always been with us, except now we have the time to truly understand its full meaning. Call it an existential crisis, which it is. We are each experiencing an existential crisis and we are experiencing it together and at different intervals and levels. We are grasping for answers and looking hard into the future attempting to make predictions, if not guesses as to what to expect once we emerge from our extended lockdowns. A friend likened this to the cocoon from which a butterfly will finally emerge.

I’m also hearing from many who are being hard on themselves for not maximizing their time in quarantine by being more productive, like cleaning out the garage, their closets, painting and doing home renovations (something my husband, bless his heart, has volunteered himself to do each weekend), learning a language or musical instrument or starting a new side job. I was reminded of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs by a friend’s comment on Facebook recently which is worth revisiting, especially now during a global pandemic. Humans, as we know, have basic needs which appear on the bottom of Maslow’s pyramid and these are food, water, shelter, sleep, etc. If these needs are met, then the next level on the pyramid is safety and security. If we feel safe and secure in our current environment, then we can move up the pyramid and embrace love and a sense of belonging which then takes us to the next level on the pyramid at the very top, which is is self-actualization.

In the midst of a pandemic, we cannot expect to ascend the pyramid and self-actualize when we are mainly dwelling in the basement of Maslow’s pyramid. People are still searching for toilet paper, for goodness sake! At this moment in time we need to take a deep breath and know that every day we are here counts. Every breath we take counts. Are we eating, drinking water, getting a few hours of sleep? These are major triumphs. An exercise my husband and I practice at the end of the day is we ask each other: “So what where your wins today?” I always start by saying that I woke up feeling healthy. I consider this a big win. We need to ease up on ourselves and be extra gentle and abundantly gracious with ourselves. We will get through this, somehow or another. And right now, getting through is absolutely okay.

 Jasmin Saidi-Kuehnert is the founder, President and CEO of Academic Credentials Evaluation Institute, Inc. (ACEI).

 

The Academic Credentials Evaluation Institute, Inc. (ACEI), was founded in 1994 and is based in Los Angeles, CA, USA.  ACEI is a full-service company providing complete and integrated services in-house in the areas of international education research, credential evaluation, and translation. ACEI’s Global Consulting Group®, offers expertise in the following specialties: Media and Branding, Global Pathways, and Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) to interested institutions and organizations around the globe. www.acei-global.org

Leave a comment

Filed under COVID-19, credentialevaluation, Credentials, Education, Gratitude, Human Interest

International Students and COVID-19

Written by: Fazela Haniff

In August 2006, I was elected the first woman president of the International Education Association of South Africa (IEASA). It was the beginning of a love affair with the internationalization of higher education that would never leave me. Even today, I am not even working in the sector; I am always drawn to the work that is done to keep minds open with a diversity and inclusion lens.

I recently reconnected with a colleague who I met during my presidency at a NAFSA conference, Laura Sippel, amid the COVID-19 posts on LinkedIn. It took only a few chat exchanges to spark all the things on my mind, especially about international students at risk, as I had been posting several issues under the hashtag #HumanityAtRisk. Humanity at risk is what I am concerned about, and for international students, those from financially and politically challenging environments are at higher risks.

Concurrent to my presidency at IEASA, I was also the director of the Wits International Office at the University of the Witwatersrand (Wits) in Johannesburg, South Africa. The international student population at Wits was around 3,000 students. A small percentage was from North America and Europe, but it was significant to foster deep collaboration and partnerships. One, in particular, was the development of a multidisciplinary, international human rights undergraduate credit-bearing program. The more substantial percentage was from other African countries, only a small portion are supported by their governments or sponsorships, which were often the bare essentials. The remainder were students who had gotten there on their dime or by family support.

Most of these students survived by pooling their resources to live together, sometimes up to 4-6 people are sharing a small living space. These are the students I am thinking about in this COVID-19 environment. I am sure that the situation at Wits (2006-2011) is no different from campuses around the world. Also, in the North American and European institutions, these students are people of colour. Not too long ago, the targets were Arab Americans, and Arab/Muslim students were on the attack. Now it is Chinese/Asian students. There is a cocktail of brewing discriminatory issues that go along with them, international students and us, local students, politics and the financial situation. Putting this all together in the COVID-19 position is more frightening for the international student population. How can they get the right help for any particular problem, financial, discrimination, health, abuse and stress? Most offices are working off-site remotely. While all institutions are trying to respond to the service needs of their general student population, COVID-19 is adding more barriers to international students.

In South Africa, international students face significant challenges. The housing situation in 2020 is unlikely any different from that that McGregor mentioned in 2014, “Many landlords require them to pay the entire year’s worth of rent in advance. There are medical insurance costs. This is an enormous burden for international students financially, particularly those from less developed countries. International students in universities are still fairly new, and the demand is outpacing the resources that are being allocated. Lack of accommodation is by far the greatest challenge.” It is however a common issue for all students in Sub-Sahara Africa. While data is scarce, according to Samia Chasi of IEASA, “Three days earlier, a local newspaper reported that an estimated 5,382 international students were stranded in university accommodation across the country. Regardless of where they are stranded, these students have required dedicated assistance from often overworked and under-resourced internationalisation professionals at host and home institutions, in collaboration with relevant ministries and diplomatic missions.” She further indicated that COVID-19 is not an equalizing force, as, “Its impact is felt differently in different contexts, with underprivileged individuals and institutions finding themselves on the receiving end of the digital divide.

In Canada, there are different support in different provinces and universities; however, there is a sense of no coordinated effort from a federal level. According to Wesam AbdElhamid Mohamed, international students commissioner at the Canadian Federation of Students (CFS), “There is no clear direction of health institutions that are protecting international students.” The organization (Students International) is also asking for post-secondary students, including international students, to be included in the Canada Emergency Response Benefit, which allows people economically impacted by the pandemic to claim $2,000 for four months for emergency support. International students contributed an estimated $21.6 billion to Canada’s GDP in 2018, according to the federal government. “So that’s why we feel that it’s truly essential to include them in the emergency program,” Mohamed said.”

[1] Karen MacGregor, 06 September 2014,https://www.universityworldnews.com/post.php?story=20140905134914811

[2] Samia Chasi, https://www.universityworldnews.com/post.php?story=20200408093750683

[3] Sherina Harris, https://www.huffingtonpost.ca/author/sharris01

In the current situation, some good practices and solutions can come from different parts of society. In Australia, last Friday, Prime Minister Scott Morrison said international students and other visa holders were “not held here compulsorily. If they’re not in a position to be able to support themselves, then there is the alternative for them to return to their home countries,”. The Melbourne City Council has become the first government at any level in Australia to pledge financial support for international students amid fears they are falling through the cracks because they are not eligible for government welfare. Later, the government of Australia make a shift, in the same light, to now offer financial support to international students.

According to Viggo Stacey, New Zealand has introduced a wage subsidy for international students; however, it is for students who cannot do their jobs during the lockdown period.

Callan Quinn stated that last week, Canada announced that international students will be included in measures to help those who lose their jobs as a result of the coronavirus outbreak. Like citizens of the country, they will be able to apply for temporary income support of up to CAN$500 a week for up to sixteen weeks provided they meet certain criteria. This is the most comprehensive support, so far, by a federal government.

According to a report by Dr Rahul Choudaha, International Students contribute over US$300 Billion to economies across the globe. “Together, the US, UK, Australia, Canada, Germany, France, and the Netherlands enrolled half the world’s international post-secondary students in 2016. That year, considering direct, indirect, and induced impacts, international students contributed:
US$57.3 billion to the US;
US$25.5 billion to the UK;
US$19.8 billion to Australia;
US$14.5 billion to France, and France charges no to low tuition fees for international students;
US$14.4 billion to Germany, and international students do not pay tuition fees in Germany;
US$11.1 billion to Canada;
US$5.3 billion to the Netherlands, a country that charges differential tuition fee for EU and non-EU international students.”

From a diversity and inclusion lens, let us see how universities and countries, that benefit from this injection of wealth from international students, will treat them during this pandemic. I am sure their respective reactions will impact what happens to their institutions, cities and country and the flow of international student’s income after COVID-19.

[4] https://www.theage.com.au/national/victoria/melbourne-city-council-pledges-financial-support-for-foreign-students-20200408-p54i63.html

[5] https://studytravel.network/magazine/news/0/27376

[6] Viggo Stacey,  https://thepienews.com/news/nz-wage-subsidy-scheme-open-for-intl-students/

[7] https://thepienews.com/analysis/top-study-coronavirus-intl-students/

[8] https://monitor.icef.com/2019/08/international-students-generate-global-economic-impact-of-us300-billion/

Fazela HANIFF immigrated to Canada in 1974 from Guyana, lived in Baton Rouge, Louisiana for plus 2 years, then to South Africa from 1994 to 2012 and returned to Canada in 2012. Through a Diversity and Inclusion Lens, Ms. Haniff is an HR, OD and HE internationalisation specialist. Ms Haniff completed her Human Resources Management studies at Ryerson University, Higher Education Management from the University of the Witwatersrand and Bachelor of Business Administration from Yorkville University. She is the Past President of the International Education Association of South Africa and first woman president. In 2010 she received an award in recognition of “Exemplary Leadership as IEASA President”. She has contributed widely to the internationalization dialogue via presentations and workshops to IIE, NIEA, NAFSA, EAIE, EAIE, IEASA, APAIE, and contributed to numerous publications related to international higher education. Fazela currently lives in Toronto, Canada.


ACEI Logo with Slogan - FINAL

The Academic Credentials Evaluation Institute, Inc. (ACEI), was founded in 1994 and is based in Los Angeles, CA, USA. ACEI provides a number of services that include evaluations of international academic credentials for U.S. educational equivalence, translation, verification, and professional training programs. ACEI is a Charter and Endorsed Member of the Association of International Credential Evaluators. For more information, visit www.acei-global.org.

Leave a comment

Filed under Books, COVI-19, COVID-19, Education, History, Human Interest, international education, international students, News, Politics, study abroad, technology, Travel