Pandemic measures change college life for international students


Irving Avalos Guzman logs in for virtual class at the University of Texas at El Paso from his home in Ciudad Juarez, Mexico. He is unable to cross the border amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

The “college experience,” usually depicted as an exciting time of meeting new people and exploring new opportunities, has changed dramatically due the COVID-19 pandemic. From classes switching to online teaching, technology issues and economic hardships, the pandemic has proven to be challenging for many students.

But some Mexican international students in El Paso faced even more challenges after some government offices closed and new restrictions were placed on travel across the U.S.-Mexico border.

Irving Avalos Guzman, 19, a first-year international student from Ciudad Juarez, Mexico, was unable to get his student visa processed on time for him to attend any classes at the University of Texas at El Paso in person.

“I would like to cross the border, go to the classes, hang out in UTEP, meet new people,” Avalos Guzman said. “Obviously, I would like to have that experience.”

Instead, Avalos Guzman attended all of his classes and UTEP new student orientation virtually from his home in Juarez.

Catie McCorry Andalis, UTEP Associate Vice President and Dean of Students, said the university is doing everything possible to make all students feel included and has coordinated several virtual events to help students stay connected and involved with their campus community.

McCorry Andalis says international students are encouraged to reach out to one of the caseworkers assigned to aid them with any concerns, from needing an internet hotspot, to getting help with food assistance.

“We have an entire team of case managers. There are 16 of those case managers and that’s their job,” McCorry Andalis said.

The university informed students it will continue to offer a combination of online, hybrid and in-person classes for Spring 2021, anticipating that COVID-19 precautions will likely still be present in the community.

“While the number of local COVID-19 cases is rising, UTEP is continuing its mission to teach and conduct research in a safe campus environment, and we are evaluating additional measures that will help the region to suppress the disease,” said an e-mail sent to all students from the president’s office.

While new students are not going to get the full campus treatment in the short term, McCorry Andalis said the university will continue to strive to bring them the best experience possible.

“No matter what happens, our commitment is to ensure that our international students are successful, academically, socially and professionally,” McCorry Andalis said.

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