With new coronavirus (COVID-19) cases still being reported in the United States and around the globe, international students are concerned about returning to university next semester. These concerns are valid. In response, some schools will opt for online or hybrid online classes to lower overall risk. Universities that are opening up for on-campus learning are taking every precaution to keep their students safe.
Let’s take a look at how different schools are handling coronavirus risks so you can make an informed decision about returning to campus.
US Universities Are Taking COVID-19 Very Seriously
Most schools in the US acknowledge the threat of COVID-19 and are committed to student safety. Universities also have data to support the value of in-person education and are doing everything they can to provide a safe environment for students who come to campus.
Many educators note that, while students can take classes and learn online, they are missing some of the important developmental and transformational aspects of the college experience that can only happen in person.
According to Michael D. Amiridis, chancellor at the University of Illinois at Chicago, “Personal engagement — inside and outside of the classrooms and laboratories — is at the core of the higher education experience. As a result, there is a strong desire and urge to return to campus as soon as possible!”
Here are some of the reasons on-campus education is so important:
Internships, work-study programs, research opportunities, and other extracurricular learning opportunities are more impactful and more accessible to students on campus.
Personal growth, independence, and time-management skills are developed as students live in a community, away from their parents, making decisions for themselves.
College-aged students benefit from community with their peers and that can be harder to achieve online or in isolation.
Schools, such as the University of Kansas (KU), are working with local health collaboratives and hospitals, as well as county and state officials, to make sure they have accurate, science-based information to consider when making decisions.
“In May , KU outlined the guiding principles for reopening campus and followed it up with a twelve-page document titled Protect KU,” said Amy Neufeld, managing director of the KU Academic Accelerator Program. “Some of the big precautions are adjusting the academic calendar to limit travel and exposure once the semester begins.”
Additionally, KU’s classroom setups were modified to accommodate social distancing. Traffic patterns on the campus grounds are well marked, and personal protective equipment (PPE) has been incorporated in daily activities throughout campus.
What Happens If I Get Sick?
COVID-19 is serious, and if you feel sick, it is essential to know the right things to do. Coronavirus symptoms include the following and may appear two to 14 days after exposure:
Fever or chills
Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing
Muscle or body aches
New loss of taste or smell
Congestion or runny nose
Nausea or vomiting
If you are experiencing symptoms of COVID-19 infection, you should call a health care provider or medical professional immediately. Students can also reach out to the student health center on campus.
The Center for Disease Control (CDC) recommends following these steps if you think you are sick:
Stay at home or in your dorm room, except to receive medical care: Get rest, drink plenty of water, and stay in touch with your doctor.
Separate yourself from other people: Most schools have dedicated quarantine space for students with COVID-19, to reduce the spread within dorms and co-living areas.
Monitor your symptoms: If you experience any emergency warning signs, such as trouble breathing, persistent pain or pressure in the chest, confusion, difficulty waking or the inability to stay awake, or bluish lips or face, call 911.
Wear a face mask: Help prevent the spread of COVID-19 to others by wearing a mask that covers both your mouth and nose.
Do not share household items and clean vigorously: Even if you do not exhibit symptoms, this is good advice during the pandemic.
Call ahead if you need to go to the doctor: Helping medical professionals keep themselves and their patients safe is essential. Calling ahead will also reduce your time in a hospital waiting area.
If you think you have or already had COVID-19, it is also important to make sure it is safe to be around you after your health improves. The CDC recommends people who have recovered from coronavirus symptoms wait 10 days after symptoms first appeared and 24 hours without a fever (without medication) or other symptoms. You can also get tested to see if you are still a risk to others.
“Each person on any of the KU campuses will be asked to take a pledge of personal accountability and community health,” said Neufeld. “This pledge includes actions like wearing face masks, practicing social distancing, conducting daily personal health screenings, scanning into each building that is entered, and staying home and reporting feeling ill to health care providers.”
What Resources Are Available to My Family and Me?
In addition to the CDC resources online, each school has its own resources for parents and students. At KU, families concerned about their student’s safety can refer to the Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19) Information page on the KU website for more information. Florida International University and Auburn University also regularly update their COVID-19 pages with the latest information on the schools’ handling of the pandemic.
“[Our site] includes a comprehensive and regularly updated plan for topics such as travel, international guests and students, events, research, as well as testing and contact testing,” said Neufeld. “Planning for the wide variety of needs for faculty in all disciplines, students from all areas of the world, and individuals experiencing a variety of different challenges brought on by this pandemic is a big task and an incredibly important part of serving our local and global community.”
Parents and students should review their school’s guidelines. Make sure you understand how to protect yourself and others and keep your risk low. We wish you the best for a productive and healthy semester.
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