Community of Support for International Students & Scholars: Virtual & In-Person
CU Denver | Anschutz: OIA Virtual Services & University’s Safe ReturnJul 5, 2020
“We are experiencing such an unprecedented time and the Office of International Affairs, as well as staff and faculty in other departments at the University of Colorado Denver | Anschutz, have been making lots of efforts to help me and other students,” explained International Business student Vy, who temporarily returned to Vietnam to complete her semester remotely due to the COVID-19 global pandemic.
A recipient of the International Freshmen Scholarship, Vy has been committed to keeping up her 4.0 grade average.
“They helped us maintain the high quality of remote learning, and then assisted me with any possible problem I had, especially regarding the immigration concerns in this pandemic time.”
As the full impact of the 2020 worldwide epidemic disrupted studies, research, and every aspect of daily life, the Office of International Affairs (OIA) and CU Denver | Anschutz jumped into action and took proactive measures in accordance with local and national guidelines to ensure the health and safety of their communities.
VIRTUAL SERVICES & SUPPORT
On day one of the university’s shift into remote teaching and learning, OIA had prepared and launched OIA Virtual Services. Using the office live chat feature, 1:1 Zoom appointments, website updates, and informational webinars, OIA’s staff and international student assistants continued to provide virtual “walk-in” services and support remotely. Questions and answers covered a range of topics about travel, visas, employment, immigration, and other areas of importance to international students and scholars, including updates for those who chose to stay in Colorado or the U.S., and those who opted to temporarily return home.
International Student and Scholar Services’ staff have prioritized continuing to ensure timely responses to requests for immigration documents that international students need to continue and successfully complete their academic journey, including engaging in employment opportunities in the U.S. “I have received my OPT I-20, and really appreciate the fast response and all the hard work the international student office has put to handle student requests amidst the Corona crisis; you guys are doing a great job,” commented Rohan, a master’s student in Computer Science.
ONLINE SOCIAL & STUDY ACTIVITIES
One of the advantages of earning an education through CU Denver | Anschutz, an urban American public academic/research institution, is the ability to not only study with students from around the world, but also to enjoy sharing fun social and cultural activities. The strong sense of community that had been established in person continued and expanded by moving online. OIA’s staff and Global Student Ambassadors hosted international student weekly game nights and ongoing game leagues, morning online wake ups with friends that brought information about “good things happening in the world”, cooking tips, remote working and learning tips, remote study halls, movie nights featuring top movies from around the world, hosted online conversation cafes, and an open chat box with the OIA designates.
Zoe, an Argentinian student in Recording Arts and Music Business and an OIA Global Student Ambassadors has been helping with the virtual events. Drawing from her own experience, Zoe said, “Ever since I began applying to CU Denver, there has been great support from the Office of International Affairs; I received information about international admissions, and all of the things I needed to know.”
“As a OIA Global Student Ambassador, I empathize with other international students and want to help them develop and improve while they are in college.”
Some of the international students stayed in Colorado, and others decided to travel to their home countries throughout the world to continue their CU Denver | Anschutz remote courses. Other stayed with friends in areas such as the Washington DC. Wherever they were, international students proudly joined their fellow American students in the virtual commencement ceremonies hosted by both campuses.
In addition to these CU Denver and CU Anschutz virtual commencement ceremonies, OIA hosted a special International Student Virtual Graduation Celebration. Forty people joined the Zoom event from a variety of countries and time zones. One Kuwaiti student commented that it was 4:00 AM in his country; but that didn’t stop him from rising early and donning his graduation cap to join in the online festivities with his friends and classmates.
“It takes a creative mind and an innovative attitude to succeed on your educational journey,” said Keynote Speaker Alana Jones, Interim Vice Provost/Senior Vice Chancellor for Student Success at CU Denver | Anschutz. “You’ve met and overcome immense challenges, especially during this unusual year — and you’ve come out strong. Each of you is truly an academic hero or heroine.”
HELPING INTERNATIONAL SCHOLARS
The International Student and Scholar Services (ISSS) team stayed busy helping international scholars/researchers and employees to navigate the intricacies of J-1 exchange scholar visas, H-1B temporary worker visas, and employment-based permanent residency.
An OIA WhatsApp group, called Anschutz International Cultural Corner (AICC) was also created for international scholars to share ideas, thoughts, and information about their culture, experiences, and challenges, as well explore virtual entertainment opportunities. In addition to the group discussions, the OIA facilitator was available for individual phone calls from international scholars who were seeking additional help.
The Association of International Researchers (AIR), has also provided opportunities for virtual engagement. They recently held a Movie Night to watch and discuss “Selma,” a film about the historic Civil Rights march.
VIRTUAL STUDY ABROAD & INTERNSHIPS
The temporary curtailment of international travels caused by the pandemic also impacted studies abroad. The university’s Global Education: Study Abroad office responded by rolling out an exciting new series of virtual study abroad and internship opportunities for the summer semester. Through these programs, which are continuing, students were able to safely and affordably learn abroad or engage in valuable internships with corporations and organizations while earning college credits. For students who are considering taking onsite study abroad programs in the future, when normal travel can be resumed, these virtual opportunities provide additional insights and preparation.
CU Denver Global Education: Study Abroad virtual learning and visits can take students to fifteen locations in Europe, Asia, Latin American and Australia. They cover the fields of business, communication, languages, global health, literature, arts, international relations, psychology, and more.
As official stay-at-home directives continued, OIA further implemented customized ways to meet international students’ needs and interests. Another new series of webinars was launched to directly answer the questions of admitted and conditionally admitted international students, as well as answer the questions of currently enrolled students who wanted to continue their studies in Fall 2020 and Spring 2021.
SAFE RETURN TO CAMPUS
Throughout the summer, CU Denver and CU Anschutz began developing comprehensive plans for the implementation of Safe Return in Fall 2020. The university evolved best practices, and continues to find ways to keep students, faculty, and staff healthy and safe, as well as to enhance the student educational journey.
More course formats were developed that retain the same high-quality instruction, but offer a variety of flexible delivery options, including a mix of on-campus, remote, online, and hybrid classes.
As part of the new, streamlined CU Denver Student Journey online experience, the newly-built International Admissions website was launched. It makes the process much easier for international students as they search for information about programs, including STEM-OPT eligible programs (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math programs for Optional Practical Training), course formats, scholarships, application, and enrollment at CU Denver | Anschutz, as well as for information about the ESL Academy (English as a Second Language).
The words of support for international students and scholars and the daily actions taken by International Affairs and leadership, faculty, and staff on both the CU Denver and CU Anschutz will be remembered.
As graduating student, Vatsal, commented at OIA’s International Student Virtual Graduation Celebration:
“You may look back and be proud to say you were able to be in the class that graduated during this historic global pandemic.”
Sulaiman, an ESL Academy student from Kuwait exclaimed, “Learning and education is the best way to continue our lives; education must not stop, even in a pandemic!”
Whether international students choose to attend Fall 2020 CU Denver | Anschutz, classes on campus or remotely from their home country and travel to Denver for Spring 2021, they know that they are always welcome here.
For more information, visit online:
Safe Return for Fall 2020: CU Denver Campus
Safe Return for Fall 2020: CU Anschutz Campus