Office of International Student Affairs Welcomes Students in Uncertain Times – The Hofstra Chronicle
Photo courtesy of Megan Naftali. // The Office of International Student Affairs welcomed international students in a variety of ways during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Due to COVID-19, the Office of International Student Affairs (ISA) at Hofstra University has developed a hybrid process of supporting international students, instead of the fully in-person support effort starting in March 2020.
In the fall semester of 2021, after the lifting of travel bans in most countries, campaigns like ‘Together Again’ and ‘Safe Departure’ demonstrated that the Hofstra campus strives to look like what ‘it was before closing.
ISA helps international students by making it easier for them to obtain visas and ensuring that students can participate in their courses online if travel bans make it difficult for them to obtain a visa abroad, according to Anne Mongillo , director of ISA.
Mongillo noted the difficulties international students face when coming to the United States, especially during the pandemic.
“I care so much about all the hoops that international students have to go through. I know it’s so much harder to get here and stay here as an international student, ”Mongillo said.
One student who had problems with his visa due to the closure of embassies was Vincent Turina, an undecided freshman in Sweden.
“My country’s embassy has been closed due to COVID-19. So I had to fly to Poland to get the visa there, ”Turina said.
The ISA office tries to make it easier for international students to come to Hofstra by using the student and visitor exchange program, Mongillo said.
Hofstra is working with a government agency to facilitate the entry of international students to the United States, Mongillo said. For example, since March 2020, signatures on documents required for a visa are provided electronically rather than by mail.
“The whole office followed [with] every change, and we also had to learn to adapt as the pandemic has hit every country and every student differently, ”said Clarissa Stewart, deputy director of ISA.
Even though the ISA has tried to accommodate international students as best they can, students have always struggled.
“My experience coming to the United States has been very eventful,” said Julia Mocellin, a second year international business student. “The US Embassy closed in Brazil, so I had to try to get a visa overseas. ”
Mocellin managed to get a visa last June, but she didn’t have the same experience starting her semester at Hofstra as American students since her mother couldn’t come to the United States on her tourist visa.
“My parents always dreamed of helping me move into my dorm, but that didn’t happen,” Mocellin said.
Mocellin felt the support of the ISA office as they offered Zoom meetings as an alternative to some career events on campus.
“My friends who are not Hofstra students haven’t had the opportunity to follow Zoom events, but Hofstra has always made sure there are options for international students with online events,” he said. Mocellin said.
These Zoom meetings are not a solution for all international students, especially those living in undemocratic societies, according to Dr Grant Saff, professor and chair of the Department of Global Studies and Geography.
Students living in non-democratic countries cannot read course material or access courses due to their internet censorship, Saff said.
Saff hopes universities will think about these kinds of students in the future. For these students, the only option is to have classes in person, he said.
In some countries, there are still no set dates for when travel bans will end.
Zainah Alhamad, a second-year bachelor’s degree student in international law, also struggled during these times and even considered taking time off from college. Eventually, she decided to take some online classes last year.
“The previous administration used travel bans to prevent immigrants from seeking asylum. Obviously, they and the current administration were also taking into consideration the dangers of COVID-19, ”said Dr Rosanna Perotti, a professor of political science who worked at Hofstra University for almost 30 years.
Despite the hardships the COVID-19 pandemic has brought, Hofstra students are pleased with the support they have received from the ISA office.
“Hofstra was very supportive of me during my time online. Not only the teachers, but also the staff. They understand the situation is difficult, ”Mocellin said.