Pandemic causes concerns for Korean exchange students


Symiah Dorsey/The Lion’s Roar

Freshman Sori Lim shared her concerns as a Korean international student on the campus closures and transition to online classes.

With the national transition to online classes due to the coronavirus pandemic, exchange students have expressed fears that their visas and education will be compromised.

The university is home to two Korean exchange students who are studying in the United States under the J-1 Exchange Visitor program. Students with a J-1 visa are registered for a “full course of study,” which does not allow online classes to count towards full-time enrollment.

According to the University of Washington’s summary of the visa’s regulations, part-time studies can jeopardize a student’s stay in the United States and make him or her ineligible for J-1 student benefits.

Sori Lim, a standing freshman exchange student and English major, expressed her concerns when she first heard about the disbandment of face-to-face classes.

“I’m supposed to study here for a year, but if coronavirus doesn’t disappear, I might have to go back because of my visa,” said Lim. “Online classes, I can’t issue my visa. It is only face-to-face.”

Although Lim is hoping to receive exceptions to the full-time enrollment requirement, the period of uncertainty has caused worry among her family.




“Life is unexpected,” said Lim. “My family is really worried about me.”

Lim also shared concerns that her campus experience will not compensate for the money she paid.

“I spent a lot of money to get here,” explained Lim. “My airplane was $2,000 roundtrip, and I paid $5,500 for my meal plan and dormitory, and my insurance was $600. It cost $600 to issue my visa. So, I spent more than $8,000, and now it’s online classes.”

Even with the possibility of accomodations, Lim shared how the pandemic will affect her learning and living experience on campus.

“I’m really sad because I really want to learn English face-to-face,” said Lim. “I wanted to travel. Actually, I was supposed to go to Chicago over spring break, but now I can’t. I usually go to the gym every weekend or at least three times a week, but it’s closed. So, I have nothing to do.” 

Hyunseok Cho, a foreign exchange student and standing freshman engineering major, shared similar grievances about how the pandemic has impacted his exchange student experience. 

“It took everything—my friends, my studies,” said Cho. “The gym and the swimming pool—a lot of things are closed because of the pandemic.”

Cho shared what his options were if he chose to return to South Korea.

“When this situation broke out, my coordinator in South Korea at my university, she sent me an email saying that it’s not yet mandatory for me to come back to South Korea, but if you want, and if you worry about pandemic, you can come back,” explained Cho. “But for me, for my program, if I chose to go back to South Korea, I have to do more things.”

On March 16, Lim visited the International Services Office to discuss her J-1 visa.

“They extended my visa date until January,” said Lim. “Because I applied before coronavirus started, my visa application was already going on before the online classes started. So, I can remain here, but students who want to extend their visa now, they might not be able to.”

Any international students concerned with their visa or quality of campus life are encouraged to visit the International Services Office in North Campus Main Building Room 113.