We got in touch with some Inspirus alumni across the world to understand the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on their academic and career plans. While universities are as helpless as the students are in the face of such a situation, they have been helping out students wherever they can. The transition to teaching online was very smooth for the universities, as expected. They also were very proactive in communicating and enforcing governmental regulations in terms of social distancing, travel and international student visa status, while also providing much-needed psychological support to international students.
Newcastle University, in the UK, is even helping international students financially, according to Riddhi Shah, a current MSc in Foundations of Clinical Psychology student. She had the option to go home but chose to stay in Newcastle. In mainland Europe, Shriya Mahamuni is pursuing an MSc in Human Settlements from KU Leuven in Belgium. Like Riddhi in the UK, she, unfortunately, has to live with the fact that half her degree will be online. Shriya’s program has a major interactive component in terms of group projects, site visits, and guest lectures – all of which are not possible currently.
Across the Atlantic, Chirag Kamble is currently in the 2nd semester of his MS in CS program at Stevens Institute of Technology located in Hoboken, New Jersey – a stone’s throw away from New York City, which has been among the worst-affected cities in the world. He was especially happy with how Stevens made sure that international students did not have to worry about their visa status at all. However, he’s worried about the impact of the pandemic on summer internships. His friends’ internships have been put on hold or canceled, and he is finding it difficult to secure one for himself. Trena Dhingra, who is pursuing her MS in CS at Northeastern University, Boston, decided not to travel to India in spite of having the option to because she was worried about the possibility of facing issues re-entering the US. Her university has given students who are not coping up with the online mode of lectures to be able to choose whether they want the current semester’s classes to be considered towards their degrees even after the final exams.
Pranita Vashisht, an Engineering Management graduate student at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte, sums up all current MS students’ responses to the big question: is it worth taking a semester online? She says it is better to defer by a semester or even a year to get the actual benefits of on-campus learning. Mahi Juthani, who is pursuing her BS at the University of Texas at Austin, grabbed the opportunity to fly home and pursue the rest of the semester online. However, she misses the interactive aspect of on-campus learning and joins Pranita in recommending deferring by a semester to get the full international education experience – provided the time off is utilized for something productive.
Your circumstances determine whether this is the right time for you to proceed with your international education experience. For undergraduate students, taking 1 of the total 8 semesters online is still fine. However, for postgraduate students, given that they generally finish their Master’s program in 2/3/4 semesters, it is not ideal to take 1 semester online. So now is a good time to ask your university about the deferral process. Until you hear something officially from YOUR university, prepare to enter your program in August. The economy is on a downward trajectory currently so it is actually the best time to increase your qualifications – that’s what a huge number of people did in the Great Recession of the late 2000s. Even the worst-case projections currently do not expect this situation to continue beyond 2020. You will hence be entering the job market when the economy has healed, with a great chance of landing the high-paying jobs that you aspire.
As always, your mentors and counselors at Inspirus are just a phone call away in case you have any further questions. We hope you and your family around the world stay safe during these testing times.