PCC is working to accommodate the international students currently quarantined in China due to COVID-19 travel restrictions, rendering them unable to take the spring classes they had originally registered for, according to Olivia Loo, director of the International Student Center.
In the US, International students attend school on non-immigrant student visas.
After COVID-19, began to spread, the U.S. government enacted an executive order which began on Feb. 2. This barred any foreign national departing from China, or who had been in China in the last two weeks, from entering the US.
Loo believes that 80 of PCC’s international students initially traveled to China over the winter break to visit their families, and to celebrate Lunar New Year.
Some of these students were able to purchase plane tickets before these travel restrictions began. However, the price of these flights skyrocketed once the restrictions were announced, making it too high for some students to afford. Some students then elected to travel to third party countries and self-quarantine for 14 days before flying back to California.
According to Loo, 63 of PCC’s international students currently remain quarantined in China.
“We’ve guided them to drop their classes, and to submit paperwork to protect their VISA status so that it would help them come back in the summer, or in the fall,” said Loo.
PCC is moving the majority of it’s classes online as a precautionary measure to reduce the spread of COVID-19. According to Loo, most of the students in China have already dropped their in-person spring courses, and some have signed up for online versions of their classes that existed prior to the campus wide closure.
As a result of the campus wide move to remote instruction, some international students are now choosing to leave the US and return home to be with their families, which is allowed based on guidance from Homeland Security, according to Loo.
Some of the students that dropped all of their PCC courses before the campus went remote have elected to take online classes offered by other colleges, such as Brigham Young University.
The International Student Center has been working alongside the counseling department to help ensure that these students are taking the classes that they need to fulfill their educational requirements.
“We’re working with them to make sure that the classes they take outside of PCC can transfer over, and that they will count for their transfer or graduation from PCC,” said Soojin Kim, an academic counselor at the international student center.
While the travel restrictions are definitely having an academic impact, the problem is not isolated to academics alone. These students live locally, and most of their belongings remain here.
“I’m honestly just thinking, how are they paying rent?” Loo said. “Thankfully, a lot of them are able to rely on other students, their friends, to help them out.”
According to Loo, the quarantine has also had a significant emotional impact on the students.
“It’s been really rough because of shortages, and they can’t really leave or congregate… a lot of the schools are closed. I mean, what does that do to your psyche? I think some students are feeling it,” Loo explained.
Peter Yu is a PCC student and president of the Chinese Students and Scholars Association (CSSA) on campus. He has been active in reaching out to the students that remain in China, and keeping them updated through WeChat, an instant messaging app.
“Students trust us, and we are glad to help them, but on the other hand I can’t do everything for them,” Yu explained. “They have to email their personal information to the school to get help.”
Yu had traveled to Tianjin, a city next to Beijing, over winter break to visit family. Throughout his trip, he became increasingly aware of the coronavirus outbreak.
“When the cases got to around 600, I emailed Olivia, saying ‘this might be more serious than we thought before’,” Yu said.
Yu was able to switch his plane tickets just in time, and narrowly avoided being restricted from reentry into the U.S. due to the precautionary move.
“On Feb. 1, the U.S. decided to approve the travel ban, starting on Feb. 2 at 2 p.m.,” Yu explained. “I arrived into LAX three hours after the travel ban. However, I got a green card, I am a California resident, so I am able to get into America. If you don’t have a green card, you are not even able to get on the plane.”
According to Yu, many students are genuinely worried and anxious about their credits. However, there are some who are excited about the chance to stay at home and relax, and have been asking the CSSA to sponsor canceling their classes. Yu does not personally endorse class cancellations, in favor of graduating at the time he had originally planned.
The International Student Center will continue communicating with the students in China, as well as the other PCC students living locally who’s daily lives are also being affected by COVID-19.
Loo is hosting an online coronavirus conference Thursday, March 19, from 12–1 p.m., to give PCC students a platform to express how their lives are being impacted by COVID-19 and the subsequent campus closure. To attend this, check here.
For updates on the status of international travel to and from the U.S., check here. To stay informed about how PCC is being impacted by COVID-19, check here.