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Trying to find support during COVID-19

Ramesh Himmatbhai Bora

Ramesh Himmatbhai Bora

“When you are an international student, you are heavily reliant on your friends and peers for any sort of support you might need,” said Ramesh Himmatbhai Borad, a Media X student at the College of the Pacific. “By not having that extra support, it has been a challenge for me.”

When University of the Pacific transitioned to remote learning in March because of the COVID-19 pandemic, many students returned to their parents’ homes, distraught over having to give up their social lives and vital on-campus networking opportunities. Graduating seniors lost the chance to cross anything but a virtual commencement stage.

However, the campus closures created much greater calamity in the lives of the hundreds of international students who left their home countries to study at Pacific’s campuses in Sacramento, San Francisco and Stockton. Many of these students remained on campus or in their off-campus apartments after being unable to return home because of travel bans. They were not only apart from their family, but they also lost their secondary social groups.

“When you are an international student, you are heavily reliant on your friends and peers for any sort of support you might need,” said Ramesh Himmatbhai Borad, a Media X student at the College of the Pacific. “By not having that extra support, it has been a challenge for me.”

According to 2019 fall enrollment data, 8.5% of Pacific’s undergraduates are international students and many are experiencing similar struggles. “We are navigating remote instruction, struggling to catch up on bills and even dealing with unemployment,” said Borad. “When you add in trying to maintain your mental health, it can be pretty overwhelming.”

Why study in U.S.?

It’s hardly a secret that top universities in the U.S. continue to maintain a strong presence among the best ranked higher education institutions in the world. Universities like Pacific, provide international students the education to be able to return home and find wonderful career opportunities.

“It is important for me to study in the U.S because it is an economically dominant country,” said Ana Paula dos Santos, who is studying at Pacific’s McGeorge School of Law. “In a globalized society in which international relationships, trade in goods, services, and multinational firms play an important role, a profound knowledge of international law is indispensable. As such, it is important that I understand other nations’ judicial systems, and the best way to do this is to study in the country of interest.”

Many international students are attracted to Pacific because of its location in the heart of Northern California.

“My dream is to work at a technology company in Silicon Valley,” said Marco Lin, a computer science major in the School of Engineering and Computer Science. “Studying at Pacific has helped me acclimate to living in the U.S., improve my professional skills and will hopefully provide me the opportunity to work here after graduation.”

Staying positive during COVID-19

Despite the extra challenges they are facing, many international students at Pacific have been able to stay positive.

“During this pandemic, I have decided that it does not matter what is happening,” said Paula dos Santos. “I am going to stay positive and make every day wonderful.”

Paula dos Santos has committed herself to running three miles every day, is trying new recipes and doing Zoom calls with her American and Brazilian friends. As she likes to say, “Change your view and enjoy life.”

Borad agrees with the importance of maintaining a positive mindset. "The only thing we can do is be patient, careful and resilient," he said. "I'm positive things are going to be normal soon and this experience is going to make us stronger as a society."

Broad need for support

Pacific is committed to supporting all international students to help them achieve their educational goals. Students can work with International Student and Scholar Services, which exists to support international students and scholars with immigration and cultural adjustment as they pursue their educational goals.

To make an appointment with an international student advisor, please call 209.946.2011 or email ips@pacific.edu.