Students start their study journeys with INTO University Partnerships despite COVID-19 pandemic

Students start their study journeys with INTO University Partnerships despite COVID-19 pandemic

Into Suf Students With Masks

International students are many things. They are peers and pupils who contribute diverse perspectives to the classroom. They are innovative drivers of research and economic activity. And, for their determination to cross seas and cultures to pursue degrees and careers—even in the face of a global pandemic—they are unstoppable.

We posed questions to students who started their study journeys with INTO during the COVID-19 pandemic. Some made it to campus, others are learning online from their home countries, and all took incredible initiative to commence their courses this year.

What motivated you to start your course during the COVID-19 pandemic? 

Alissa Lange, a German student in the International Year One in Science at INTO Saint Louis University (INTO SLU), decided to study on campus this autumn because she did not want to sit idly during the pandemic and lose time in pursuing her degree in environmental science. 

“I think I couldn’t really use the time better than starting my studies,” she said. 

Finding some silver lining, members of INTO’s 2020 cohort seized the opportunity to kick-start their educations and position themselves for success after COVID-19. 

Yun Liu, a Chinese student pursuing a Graduate Diploma of Management on campus with INTO Queen’s University, Belfast, did not want to wait any longer to earn her master’s degree.  “When COVID-19 came, the economy downturned,” Yun said.  “It was a good chance to resign [and] I plan to go back to my job when the depression leaves.” 

For some students who could not make it to campus, the decision to study online became clear after they heard about virtual learning from INTO’s experts. 

“What motivated me to start the program instead of waiting until 2021 is the orientation my university did on webinar, showing us how interesting learning online will be,” Ebilayefa Konboye, a Nigerian student in the International Year One in General Studies at INTO the University of Alabama, Birmingham (INTO UAB), shared.  “To be honest, I love it and am learning a lot.” 

What has made starting study with INTO at this time special for you? 

Ebilayefa also explained what it was like to be the only one in a friend group who started an online program this year.  “My friends are now wishing they started their programs,” Ebilayefa said. 

Whether online or in person, the choice to begin study at a foreign university during the COVID-19 pandemic set new INTO students apart from their peers. 

Travel restrictions and altered campus operations during COVID-19 meant that students learning face-to-face navigated unprecedented challenges as they arrived in the United States and the United Kingdom.  Through these challenges, students counted on INTO’s support.   

Upon arrival in Northern Ireland with her husband, Yun from INTO Queen’s was concerned about securing access to prescribed, long-term medication.  “INTO’s student support team got in touch with me and helped me to meet the pharmacist,” Yun shared.  “It was a really significant thing for me.” 

Understandably, those arriving on campus had anxieties about whether other international students awaited them.  

“When I arrived at Belfast, I thought [I would be] the only person who stud[ied] at INTO Queen’s,” Mahdi, a Saudi Arabian student in the International Foundation in Engineering and Science at INTO Queen’s, said.  “I was surprised with a set of Saudi students.” 

How has your virtual learning experience been so far? 

A novel experience for most, students in blended programs on campus and fully virtual programs at home participated in online learning this year.

“I totally feel the connection when I meet with INTO faculty/staff or my classmates,” Jose Ramirez, a Panamanian student who is remotely completing the International Year One in General Studies at INTO UAB, said of online learning.  “You can see the effort they put into making it seem like we are in a face-to-face conversation. 

How do you feel about safety precautions and life on campus during COVID-19? 

ChiaLing Lo made the 24-hour journey from Taiwan to study the International Year One in Business at INTO SLU.  Upon arrival, ChiaLing was immediately impressed with COVID-19 precautions at SLU: 

“The campus health regulations of wearing masks and social distancing make me feel safe,” ChiaLing said.  “Also, the random testing of COVID-19 shows the school cares about students’ health.” 

Alissa agreed with ChiaLing, adding, “I really appreciate the work of all the staff… I think (INTO) SLU does a really good job in protecting us from COVID.”  

Despite the uncertain times in which they began their educational experiences, the students who found a safe path to success through INTO this year have proven themselves to be unstoppable.  It was true before the COVID-19 pandemic, and it is especially true now.  And, as Jose sums up, they have been met with support and encouragement every step of the way: 

“It has been a great journey, most of all because it has been a totally different experience and, despite all the circumstances, the University and INTO have done a great job and have prepared in the best possible way to continue offering their services.” 

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