By now we know the effects of Covid-19 are not just on health. The pandemic is turning economies upside down, and as the US economy reaches record job losses, international students are among the most impacted. The financial support from back home has drastically gone down because those supporting us have either lost their jobs, taken pay cuts, or closed their businesses. On top of that, most of us have lost our jobs here too because we mostly do entry-level jobs/internships which are the first to be axed when companies are dealing with financial difficulties. Some people are even facing legal ramifications either because they have lost their internships and their visa status is in limbo or they need money to pay tuition otherwise they lose their F1-Visa status.
Here are some ways you can seek help before things get dire. Help here can mean a piece of advice, financial support, emotional support, or even legal support. You will be surprised how much help you can get from individuals, companies, non-governmental organizations like churches, schools, etc. It’s not easy to ask for help, especially for some cultures, but sometimes we need the community around us. No person is an island. Remember, it’s ok to be vulnerable.
File for Hardship
According to the US Citizenship and Immigration Services website (uscis.gov/humanitarian/special-situations), an F1 student facing economic hardship caused by unforeseen circumstances may request employment authorization to work off-campus. This kind of request, if approved, will allow you to widen your search for work beyond school and beyond the 20 hours a week requirement. The ability to work more hours makes it easier for employers to consider you for better positions and hopefully better pay packages. This has always been a long shot, but if there was ever a time when you have a better chance of getting it, it’s now during this pandemic. So, before you give up and become illegal, click on the link above and apply.
Ask for a Tuition Payment Plan
Every student is preparing to part with thousands of dollars come mid-August in the form of tuition and fees. Some of us would like to pay it all off and get it over with, but if that’s not possible, Lincoln University offers a monthly payment plan mostly stretching up to 3 months. In case this period is still not enough for your situation, it is ok to go and ask if they can stretch your payment plan even further. Of course, there is no guarantee that it will be possible, but if you don’t ask you will for sure not be considered.
Negotiate With Your Landlord
Rent is one of the biggest expenses in the Bay Area. Fortunately, some landlords are giving that consideration and are allowing tenants to either pay half price or defer their payments during this crisis until things get better. Of course, landlords will not come to you offering this, so you must approach them and ask for special consideration. I personally know two students at Lincoln University who are currently paying around 70% less rent after they approached their landlords to request relief during this pandemic.
Make Use of Credit Card Payment Relief
Most major credit card issuers are offering credit card relief in one form or another during the Covid-19 crisis (creditcards.com/credit-card-news/credit-card-issuers-relief-coronavirus). Some are offering lower interest rates, payment deferments, or even allowing their cardholders to skip payments. So, if your bills are piling up and you are running out of options, please call your provider and see what they can do for you.
Work on Ways to Reduce Your Expenses
Most of us know we need to save, but beyond putting a certain percentage of money away, there are other ways you can ease the burden. For example, there are lots of food banks in Alameda and San Francisco counties. Search Google to find one around you. Food banks will give you free groceries and other staples. Yes, this is not the first choice for many, but it’s an option if things are tough. Food banks don’t require your social security number or any background information to give you food. Contrary to some opinions, they don’t give rotten food. You might even get organic food in some of them. Now that you are mostly home, try and make your meals at home and you will save a big percentage of the budget allocated for food. Yes, most of us aren’t good cooks, but who’s judging?
Maintain Good Health Both Physically and Mentally
Health is not merely the absence of disease. You must find ways of living a whole life. With the current media exposure, you must fight for your sanity. Choose carefully what you read, listen to, or share. No, we are not saying you bury your head in the sand and ignore everything around you, but do not take everything personally nor put the burden of the world on your shoulders. Pursue with intent activities that motivate you, be it art, sport, work, healthy food, or even just connecting with family or friends. Most importantly, do not be afraid to ask for help!
“Staying vulnerable is a risk we must take if we want to experience connection.” - Brene Brown