Student-led virtual events unite international Sun Devils around the world

November 17, 2020

Arizona State University’s Coalition of International Students continues to promote communication among international students despite having members spread across the world. 

Since the outbreak of COVID-19 and ASU’s transition to remote classes, international students have faced a series of challenges due to travel restrictions and public health guidelines. Students have grappled with tough decisions as to whether to travel home or stay in Arizona, how best to balance their academic needs and when they can see family again.

Through these challenges, CIS has continued to host events virtually through Instagram, Facebook and Zoom to keep spirits and connection up. Events include online happy hours, movie screenings, meetings through Houseparty, game nights, cooking challenges and presentations with ASU Counseling Services.

Coalition of International Students students at a table at ASU's Student Pavilion

ASU's Coalition of International Students has shifted from in-person events to virtual ones that students can access from around the globe.

“We’ve been doing different kinds of events to kind of see what works best with this virtual format,” said Kendall Rees, CIS outgoing events manager and senior studying civil engineering. “We also have a group chat that we are very active on.”

Unlike many students who were able to go home after the transition to remote instruction, many international students could not travel back to their home countries to be with their families.

“We realize that a lot of students that are left on campus are either international students, out of state students or students who cannot go home,” Rees said.

CIS is continuing to uphold its mission of promoting communication and understanding of culture among students while also focusing on supporting its members during this time.

“I know for us as an EBoard [executive board] our first intention for making these events was to kinda help those students feel that they are not alone, that they still have us supporting them at this time,” Rees said. “The intention is to create ways we can still stay engaged while being separated.”

According to Rees the International Student and Scholars Center has been holding workshops for students and announcing COVID-19 updates. 

ISSC updates include information on travel restrictions, ASU travel guidelines, frequently asked questions, employment options and visa and passport guidance.

Nithiya Uppara, CIS logistics manager and graduate student studying computer science, is an international student who had to stay in Tempe due to travel restrictions from her home country, India. 

“Unfortunately India put up a travel ban, and it keeps extending,” Uppara said. “Since I am staying in an apartment away from my family I don't have anybody to talk to. There might be a lot of students like me who got stuck in places over spring break.”

The goal of the virtual events is to create a sense of community for students who need it, said Uppara.

“The problem is that the students are used to a community, and they live with the prospects of going around, meeting people, working on their assignments, discussing, that’s what makes a student life.” 

Outside of giving students a sense of community, CIS’s virtual events also give international students who are still living in Arizona the opportunity to connect with in-state students. This connection is important because it helps students find opportunities to talk to people and find solutions for challenges they may be facing. Uppara explained that students who may not be from the United States can get tips from in-state students on simple matters such as advice on good places to order takeout food. 

Students can find more updates on virtual CIS events on their Instagram and Facebook pages. Events are open to any ASU students and students who have questions can ask by messaging the Instagram and Facebook accounts.