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UC Answers: What can I expect as an international student?

Ron Cushing, director of International Services, answers common questions

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Can you start by explaining the current status of fall semester at UC as it relates to whether classes will be online or in-person or both?

Cushing: The University of Cincinnati is committed to returning to some in-person classes for fall 2020, but we will certainly not be fully in-person. We will offer a mix of in-person hybrid and online courses for the fall.

How do I know if my classes will be online or in-person?

Cushing: The best way to know if your classes are in-person or online is to check in Catalyst. All courses should be classified properly within the Catalyst system. But if you ever have a question about whether or not your course is in-person or online, you can certainly ask your academic advisor.

Will some of my classes be online and in-person?

Cushing: Yes. The University of Cincinnati will be offering a mix of both in-person and online classes. Many current students will likely be in the majority of online classes, but there can certainly be the opportunity to have an in-person course, or two, mixed in.

If international students aren't able to travel to United States due to travel restrictions, what should they do to continue to pursue their education at UC?

Cushing: So we expect that many students will have difficulties re-entering the United States. International students who are not able to come to campus in person for the fall, if you're currently overseas, what you're going to have to do really depends on whether or not you're a currently enrolled student pursuing a program of study, or if you are a new student. For those of you who are currently enrolled students, the answer is pretty simple; you can remain enrolled online for your courses from abroad if you can't get here for whatever reason.

New students, you can also choose to take the full online route for the fall. There'd be nothing prohibiting you from enrolling full time from overseas for your first semester. The difficulty will be for those new students who want to come in-person. The only way a new student will be able to come in-person is to come to pursue a full course of study in in-person courses. And some colleges and programs may not be able to offer that. And even if they can offer that there may be difficulties in obtaining a visa or trying to enter the US during this very fluid period.

What would you say to an international student who is still in the United States, but is considering a return trip home?

Cushing: Our advice for anybody who's thinking about travel really remains what it was when the pandemic first started. The safest thing is to stay in place. Once you leave, you don't know if rules will change, if embassies will close or when they will reopen, or what kind of travel restrictions will be put in place. So the safest thing is always to remain here in the US if at all possible.

How does COVID-19 impact my F1 visa status and my ability to travel to United States to attend classes at UC?

Cushing: How COVID-19 restrictions affect your F-1 status depends on whether or not you are a current F-1 student who had been in the country at the time the pandemic started or if you are a new incoming student. The good news for current students who were here when all of this started is the regulations will allow you to remain either here or abroad and enroll in all online classes and maintain your valid F-1 status. For new students entering for the first time, unfortunately it means you can only come if your program can provide for you a full course of study in-person. And even then there is a lot of concern in the industry about whether or not visas will be granted and entry into the United States will be granted.

If I'm traveling from an international destination to campus, what steps do I need to take when I arrive with regard to COVID-19?

Cushing: If you are arriving to campus from any place outside the United States, upon arrival, you need to report your arrival to the university by emailing You will have to self-quarantine for 14 days before you are allowed to enter campus.

What is the university doing to help students avoid contracting COVID-19 while on campus?

Cushing: The university of Cincinnati is very concerned about the safety of all of our students, our faculty and staff. I suggest that all students read the full return-to-campus guide that was issued by President Pinto to the university. In International Services, we have limited the number of staff that we will have available in the office. We used to be open five days a week, eight to five. Now we are only open two days a week with limited staff, many of the things that we used to do in-person with students, we are now doing via distance. And so you're emailing things to us. We're processing them, sending them back to you electronically. When people come to the office first, you absolutely will be mandated to wear a mask in the office, and we are limiting the number of individuals that can be in our office at one time. We also have clear markings on the floors where you can stand when there's more than one person in line.

I was scheduled to co-op outside of the United States in the fall, what should I do?

Cushing: If you were scheduled to co-op outside the US in the fall, that is a perfectly fine thing to do from your F-1 immigration status. And your record will be able to remain active. All you need to do is make sure that you submit your curricular practical training request indicating that you're doing the co-op in the fall and professional practice or your career services coach will certify that. That's all you need to do. It's a perfectly fine process to engage in for the fall semester.

I've heard that international students who are only taking online classes may not be able to remain in the United States. What's the latest on this?

Cushing: The last couple of weeks has been very turbulent with Homeland Security issuing guidance and then retracting guidance. The current guidance that is in place is that anybody who is currently in the United States, or even abroad, with an active F-1 record, you are allowed to enroll in all online courses for fall semester and still maintain your F-1 immigration status. We certainly expect there to be more guidance before fall semester starts. Rules, regulations, guidance's can all certainly change at any moment. We will do our best to make sure that you are kept up to date when those changes come about. We will email those changes to you, and we will update the FAQ section of the COVID-19 website.

Is there anything you'd like to add or any advice you'd like to share with international students who may be facing many uncertainties?

Cushing: For all of our international students, we realize this is a very difficult time. We are all trying to manage living and existing during a global pandemic, and most of you are thousands of miles away from your family and friends. And on top of everything else that's going on, you obviously have immigration concerns to remain on top of, just know that first, when it comes to your immigration concerns, we are here to answer all of your questions. So simply give us a call, send us an email, or keep up to date with our frequently asked questions on the COVID-19 website. From a personal standpoint, if you're struggling at all with all of this, we want you to know that the university has resources available for you. So please reach out.

Stay informed

Keep up to date on all the latest information related to international students and COVID-19 on the FAQ page, and find more UC Answers to your important questions.