International students asked to return to campus for fall 2023


International students (from left) Kae Takazawa, Hwan Joo Jeong, and Eunseo Hwang study at the Schauerman Library on Thursday, May 26. (Ma. Gisela Ordenes | The Union)

International students at El Camino College are facing new requirements for the upcoming fall semester, as they are being asked to increase their in-person class enrollment in response to changing guidelines.

Students enrolled in the International Student Program (ISP) must take at least nine units of in-person classes next semester, back to pre-pandemic rules under the Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP), the ISP Office said.

“This has been a requirement from immigration, it’s just when COVID hit, everything changed, everybody had to stay at home,” Summer Kennedy, ISP Student Service Specialist said.

The public health emergency for COVID-19 ended on May 11, due to the law signed by President Joe Biden on April 10. The SEVP followed suit and ended its COVID-19 guidance on May 11.

The new guidelines focus on transitioning back to normal.

“It was how it was before COVID,” Kennedy said. “Students had to have nine units at the minimum on campus and they were allowed to only take up to three units online.”

A full course is at least 12 units for the spring or fall semester, according to El Camino’s International Student Handbook.

International students at El Camino College are F-1 visa holders, defined by the Immigration and Nationality Act as “foreign students coming to the United States to pursue a full course of academic study in SEVP-approved schools.

In March 2020, El Camino allowed foreign students to take online classes in excess of regulatory limits based on federal guidelines because of the pandemic.

They were permitted to take nine units of online classes and three units of either online or hybrid classes until spring 2023.

Hwan Joo Jeong, 20, an international student from South Korea, said she was surprised at the requirement.

“Nine units on campus are too much,” Jeong said. “I’m surprised, I didn’t know that but my friend told me so I changed all my classes for fall.”

Jeong said she prefers to take math classes online, but because of the new guideline, she is taking them in person for the fall semester.

Kae Takazawa, 19, an international student from Japan and a Public Relations major, said she prefers attending classes on campus and is enrolled in one online class.

“I like taking classes on campus better,” Takazawa said. “Some of my friends are like, ‘Oh, I don’t wanna go to school’ but for me, it’s not like that.”

Leonardo Polo, 20, an international student from Peru, said online classes gave him flexibility now that he’s working at the ISP Office.

“I used to take in-person classes,” Polo said. “But this semester I took three online classes and one in-person class because I started working and taking more online classes allowed me to have a more flexible schedule.”

Unlike other international students, neuroscience major Eunseo Hwang, 20, from South Korea said she prefers online classes.

“Honestly, I prefer online because my house in the U.S. is kinda far from the college,” Hwang said. “It’s like 30 minutes by car.”

For the fall, Hwang’s classes are on campus.

“I’ll have everything in-person because I take three science classes and in El Camino, the science class should be taken (on campus) because it has laboratory classes,” Hwang said.

Kennedy said although she personally thinks it’s better to make the transition gradually from six units instead of nine units of in-person classes, it’s not up to the ISP Office.

“We don’t make the regulations. It’s up to the government,” Kennedy said. “Personally, I would like to see more students on campus.”