I hope everyone’s summer is going well, and that you have had time to rest and detach from the hectic pace of the last few months. At the same time, we in International Programs are anxious for the fall semester to begin. Planning for the upcoming academic year has presented us with many unexpected opportunities. We’ve connected with students in non-traditional ways, and they have taken advantage of innovative programming and virtual events - some of which will continue into the new academic year.
We have seen sustained student interest in study abroad, despite current limits to international travel, and have continued to provide high quality advising through Zoom, live chat and virtual study abroad information sessions. Recently, we summarized the current state of UI study abroad for Provost Fuentes, including the prioritization of the health and safety of our students, and how we plan to review travel risk and programming (see June 18, 2020 announcement for details).
Virtual global internships were introduced this summer, and due to the success of these low-cost, high impact experiences, we plan to continue offering them in the future. We are also working with UI faculty to develop faculty-led virtual courses, capitalizing on current collaborations with international experts and organizations. One such course would explore the literary history and challenges of place-bound travel writing, an apt subject considering the world we live in. I am very excited to see these come to fruition.
ISSS, Admissions, Academic Advising, and ESL are preparing for the arrival of new and returning international students. In the same vein, ISSS staff and the Campus Activities Board have organized social events over the summer to help maintain a sense of community among international students. From virtual movie viewings to simple “hang-outs” and professional development opportunities, the sentiment thus far from participating students is excitement at having a place to connect with each other.
While the pandemic has altered plans, our students are proving to be extremely resilient, able to surmount the changing landscape and uncertain futures they face. Some have shared their stories with us - from those who maintained connections to their host country despite their program ending early to an international student donning PPE to help support our healthcare workers in the fight against coronavirus. I invite you to read their stories.
The majority of this year’s Stanley International Research Travel Grant awardees have received fellowships that will enable them to undertake their research projects this summer here in the U.S. And our Fulbright awardees (now numbering 23!) continue to get updates from their host countries regarding the start of their grants. Interest in pursuing international grants remains high as many students are working with International Programs and our faculty on 2021-2022 Fulbright, Boren and Critical Language Scholarship applications. In addition, we recently learned that nine University of Iowa students were awarded a Benjamin A. Gilman International Scholarship, a U.S. federally-funded program that enables students of limited financial means to study or intern abroad.
This week we were happy to receive news that the U.S. government withdrew the guidance issued last week that threatened the ability of international students in the U.S. on F-1 visas to take classes via remote instruction. This welcome news means that continuing students will be allowed to study fully online both inside and outside the United States without jeopardizing their F-1 immigration status. This also means that no one will be required to leave the U.S. after Thanksgiving or at any time during the semester if classes move to being completely online. For additional information, please see this presentation which covers what Fall 2020 will look like for new and continuing international students.
If there is one silver lining in these developments, it is the full and immediate expression of support from our campus community for our international students, colleagues, neighbors, and friends. This is Hawkeye solidarity at its best, and I am proud to be part of such a community.
With warmest regards,
Associate Provost and Dean, International Programs