Harvard College will allow returning international students to transfer credits from an accredited university in their home country to Harvard this fall, director of the Office of International Education Camila L. Nardozzi wrote in an email to undergraduates living outside the United States Wednesday.
Just hours following Harvard's announcement that it would conduct all courses remotely for the fall semester, international students reeled after United States Immigration and Customs Enforcement announced a new rule requiring them to attend in-person classes if they wished to remain in or return to the United States.
Though the federal government has since rescinded the rule, not all international students plan to set up camp in Cambridge or take Harvard classes from afar. Some, instead, are considering the prospect of enrolling in institutions closer to home for the fall, citing the appeal of synced time zones, in-person classes, and faculty interaction.
Nardozzi wrote that while the College is planning a broader timetable of courses — spanning from 7:15 a.m. to 10 p.m. — administrators recognized that attending class synchronously will still be “untenable” for many students.
“Given the remote nature of the spring term, finishing your courses in EDT provided additional challenges that some of your US-based peers did not face,” Nardozzi wrote. “For some, that meant engaging in your courses and other academic obligations in the middle of the night, forcing you to find time to sleep, study, complete homework assignments, and participate in your home life whenever possible.”
The plan comes with caveats, however. Those considering the study away option must first complete their local university’s application process and discuss courses they would like to apply toward their concentration with their department’s director of Undergraduate Studies or head tutor.
Undergraduates may only enroll in courses that Harvard considers in line with a “liberal arts and sciences curriculum.” Harvard will not count pre-professional courses in law, medicine, journalism or other communications, business, and most food and agriculture related fields for credit.
Students must submit to the Office of International Education by August 1 for Administrative Board approval.
Noah Miles ’23, an Australian international student, said he plans to pursue the study away option at the Australian National University so he can maintain a normal sleep schedule during the fall term. During the spring semester, Miles said he ended up taking his online classes from Adelaide, Australia — which is 13 and a half hours ahead of the East Coast — at 11 p.m. and 6 a.m.
“I couldn't function during the day because I had to do all these classes at night, and it wasn't really helping my physical and mental health,” he said. “I just don't see any way that Harvard can feasibly put together a schedule that allows students in different time zones to be able to go to classes live, as well as live a normal lifestyle during the day back home.”
Ruth H. M. Jaensubhakij ’22, an international student from Singapore, said she is considering a fall semester at Yale-NUS College — a collaboration between Yale University and the National University of Singapore — which, unlike Harvard, will offer in-person instruction.
“Online learning, you don't necessarily get as much out of it,” she said. “If I was able to take classes where I could sit in the lecture hall and do study groups in person with other students, that would make a big difference to me.”
Jaensubhakij said Yale-NUS had been “gracious” in extending its enrollment deadline, though the new date — this coming Sunday — is fast approaching. She said she is hesitant to enroll because her grades at Yale-NUS would not factor into her Harvard GPA.
“I think that matters a little bit when thinking about if I want to apply for something like grad school,” she said.
Ton-Nu Nguyen-Dinh ’22 said she hopes to attend a university in Vietnam in the fall for the opportunity to collaborate with scholars from her home country in preparation for graduate school. She is currently deciding between four Vietnamese higher education institutions, all of which will offer classes in-person.
“Harvard's timing was actually perfect because the day the University gave out that notice about the study away program was the same day the Ministry of Education signed a decree that asked all universities in Vietnam to take in students who study abroad and cannot return to their institution in foreign countries to study,” Nguyen-Dinh said.
Lauren V. Marshall ’22, an international student from England, said she is entertaining the prospect of studying at a London-based institution, such as the London School of Economics or King’s College London.
“It would be nice to be able to be linked up with an institution or a community in my home country,” she explained. “But that being said, most of them are remote anyway, and only have in-person tutorials, which are small, intimate gatherings with the professor and one or two other students, so it would not be anywhere close to a full campus experience.”
But Marshall said she has other qualms, too, citing her decision to attend a U.S.-based institution in the first place.
“I made the decision not to study in my home country,” she said. “And it feels kind of quietly ironic to then turn around now and desperately claw back those places that I once shunned.”
Marshall said she felt Harvard left it to students to initiate communication with their local institutions, broker arrangements, and negotiate enrollment deadlines — almost all of which have passed.
“[The Office of International Education] recommended on their website that we should email the universities that we want to study at, which is kind of terrifying and almost a little bit insulting,” she said. “Because I feel like if the tables were turned and American students who studied at Oxford were stuck in Boston, I don't necessarily think they could just email [Dean of the College] Rakesh [Khurana] and be like, ‘hey, can I study here?’”
College spokesperson Rachael Dane wrote in an email that while most institutional application deadlines for the fall term have long passed, Harvard is working with partner universities and other institutions to advocate on students’ behalf.
“While it’s true that we’re asking students to do some research in identifying institutions in their region, the Harvard International Office is working tirelessly to also identify institutions open to admitting our students as visiting students at this very late time in the year,” Dane wrote.
She added that Harvard has already identified many opportunities for international students and is utilizing its “global network” to find suitable alternatives to a remote Harvard semester. Since Nardozzi’s email, Dane wrote the Harvard International Office has spoken with “dozens” of students to provide individualized advising regarding the study away option.
“They have also worked at all hours to speak with counterparts across the world to understand what is possible for our students and what is not,” Dane wrote. “As options become available, the International Office updates our students, and will continue to do so.”
—Staff writer Juliet E. Isselbacher can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @julietissel.
—Staff writer Amanda Y. Su can be reached at email@example.com. Follow her on Twitter @amandaysu.