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Coronavirus and international study: A conversation with parents

Parents play a crucial role in facilitating academic ambitions and study journeys. We wanted to find out how they were dealing with the challenges posed by coronavirus.

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We spoke to the parents of international students from five different countries to further understand how coronavirus is impacting students, universities and families around the world. Although anecdotal, these perspectives are helpful in connecting people, ideas and insights so that the relevant planning can be undertaken.

 

Some of the central themes that arose from these interviews include uncertainty around university term dates, online learning, graduation ceremonies and student safety. Many were key concerns for parents at this time.

As a parent of an international student(s), how has coronavirus affected your child’s studies?

Jai:

My daughter-in-law is studying at Georgetown University in the U.S. and pursuing a postgraduate MBA program. She is in her final year. The major impact is that she is forced to stay at home, study online, cannot meet faculty or colleagues and above all her graduation day ceremony has been called off. She is not sure at this point whether her placement offer would be honored or not.

 

Pete:

I live in Spain and my son lives in the UK, where he is in the 4th year of his degree and his university closed down about two and a half weeks ago, which means that he has been told that his finals will not be taking place. He is now waiting to find out whether exams might be done online which means it’s not exactly secure and people might be tempted to cheat. On top of that he has a postgraduate job which starts in June, so if they decide to delay the exams, I’m not quite sure how that will work.

 

Brian:

My son is a postgraduate student who was hoping to do a PhD in the USA. The current Covid-19 situation has put this on hold, and he is waiting for the restrictions to be lifted.

 

Jasmine:

So, my child is a postgraduate student, currently studying a Doctor of Physical Therapy in Montana, USA. The coronavirus crisis has affected my child’s studies as the university has postponed activities, upcoming seminars and gatherings at the institution.

 

Do you feel there is enough information and guidance from universities around the situation?

Jai:

Yes, there is enough information and guidance available from the university.

 

Pete:

I have had no contact with my son’s university. Mostly because I believe it is my son’s responsibility and I will support him in making the right decision as he is a young adult in his twenties.

 

Brian:

There is. Universities are very up front about the situation and my son in considering deferring his entry.

 

Jasmine:

Yes, because my child is forwarding me the university’s updates about their decisions on alternatives for school projects, online classes, exams and quizzes. They are also offering some financial support or temporary solutions for the payment of their fees which is really very nice of them.

 

Andy:

No, everything feels up in the air. We don’t know how this will affect my daughter’s progress going forward. We don’t know whether or not this year’s studies will be completed or not. The university is still working on a plan.

 

 

What type of information/advice/guidance would you like to see regarding the situation?

Pete:

As a parent of an international student, I believe there is very little information that I personally would want as my son is the one at university and although I’m financially supporting him, I have no legal rights to actually control what he decides.

 

Brian:

Whether the university year can be adjusted to fit in with any changes to travel restrictions, rather than having normal entry in September or October. Maybe because of the situation you can have a later entry in January or February. I suppose it would also be useful to understand the Covid-19 situation where the university located, so a local feel.

 

Jasmine:

First, it would be good to get information about an alternative platform where professors can hold classes for their students. We all need guidance about how we can avoid getting contaminated with the virus, especially for students. Information on changes to universities’ timelines, for example, will they cut some of the courses just to pursue the graduation of these students? It would also be good to have support available for the students from the university.

 

Andy:

I’d like to know more about an online learning syllabus and the university’s game plan on how to complete the current year. If my daughter’s current year is not able to be completed, I’d like information on refunds or balances applied to future years.  Also, information on whether or not online learning can be completed from Canada or if she’ll need to return to New Zealand.

 

What have you found most challenging about this situation?

Pete:

I miss my son and I have not been able to see him since Christmas. It’s now Easter and we had planned a number of trips between Spain and UK. So, I guess like everyone else in this situation, keeping active and keeping motivated is probably the hardest thing. In terms of the university, I believe my son has been well informed and I am more than happy with that. I feel that I am here as guidance, but I do not have any relationship with the university, it’s my son’s relationship and he should be able to make the most informed decision for him.

 

Brian:

Not knowing whether my daughter should attend the university or not. Will it be safe in October? It might be over here [UK] but not in the U.S.

 

Jasmine:

The most challenging thing is being far away from my child during this health crisis and I am now expecting some delays in relation to my child’s academic work and university graduation.

 

Andy:

It’s all challenging, getting her home was the most challenging and fear that she was walking away from her studies and that they would be wasted. Uncertainty about the future is a big worry.

 

Do you have any further comments regarding this situation?

Brian:

This is a very worrying time for students, and they are obviously concerned about whether they will be able to go ahead and study or whether they should get a job. If universities were able to be flexible about the start and finish time of the university year then that might help.

 

Jasmine:

Overall, I think that the most important thing right now is to be kept informed about what’s happening and how well the university will put up with the delays. I would want to receive updates from the university on how they will be able to handle online classes, knowing that their students are coming from different parts of the world.

 

My child is a physical therapy student and I know that health care workers are more likely to be knowledgeable, especially their professors, who are currently working on the front line. I hope they are sharing some advice with their students as well as how they get help, especially those who are already in quarantine.

 

Andy:

I’d like to know what’s going to happen with the current year’s studies, will students be able to return? Is her money from this year lost or will this be applied to next year?

 

We have shared the experiences and concerns of parents here to further understand how this situation is affecting international students.

 

Hopefully you found this article useful, please feel free to share on Facebook or Twitter to help others who may be feeling the same way.

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