Georgetown University international first-year and transfer students are reporting logistical, academic and financial barriers to attending the university’s recently introduced five-week summer immersion program.
The university created the Summer Hilltop Immersion Program as a chance for first-year and transfer students to engage in in-person learning and to interact with faculty and peers after a full year of virtual learning because of the COVID-19 pandemic. However, international students who hope to attend the program are concerned with F-1 visa applicability, heavier workloads, shortened summer vacation and a lack of information about tuition and financial aid.
While domestic students enrolled in SHIP are only required to take six to eight credit hours during the program, international students will face a different set of criteria. Students eligible to live and study in the United States under an F-1 visa must be enrolled in 12 credit hours their first semester on campus to qualify as a full-time student.
To meet this requirement, international students who have not previously lived on campus would have to take a significantly heavier course load over the summer than domestic students, according to Renato Llontop Calosi (SFS ’24), a student from Peru who has lived at home for the entirety of this school year.
“It is a burden to take 12 credits in the summer and going directly to taking 12 credits in the fall as well,” Calosi said in a Zoom interview with The Hoya. “I will say the benefit will be to be in person with people — to be on campus and have that experience.”
To meet the 12-credit requirement, the university is offering international students a second five-week block of six credits in addition to the immersion program, according to a university spokesperson.
“This is not a Georgetown policy but is an immigration requirement,” the spokesperson wrote in an email to The Hoya.
Despite the reported difficulties, the university is looking forward to welcoming first-year and transfer students back to campus this summer, according to the spokesperson.
“We understand that each student will need to make their own decision on if this is the right option for them but we welcome international students to take part in SHIP, and hope that many of them are able to join us,” the spokesperson wrote.
In addition to visa and credit concerns, there has been a lack of communication from the university about financial aid and any additional costs international students may incur, according to Calosi.
“Information from the university to international students has not been transparent,” Calosi said. “Until now, we haven’t received any information from the university about the extra costs, or if it will be the same cost of SHIP.”
The university is providing full need-based financial aid to qualifying students, according to the university spokesperson.
The total cost of attending the five weeks of SHIP is $7,500. However, the university has not provided additional information regarding the cost of extra credits necessary for international students. Without adequate information about the final cost, many international students are feeling pressured to make a final decision without being fully informed, according to Calosi.
SHIP is set to begin June 4, just over two weeks after the spring semester ends. For many international students, there would be no time to go home between the end of the spring semester and the beginning of SHIP, giving students no choice but to stay in the United States without university-provided housing, according to Andrea Ho (SFS ’24), a student from Singapore currently living on campus.
“Domestic students can just return to their home states, but for international students, the school hasn’t really made any comment on where we can put up for those two weeks,” Ho said in an interview with The Hoya. “For a lot of us, it doesn’t make sense to leave the U.S. for such a short period of time.”
The university did not comment on students’ concerns about housing in between the school year and the start of the program.
While many international students are concerned with obstacles preventing them from participating in SHIP, they also worry opting out of the program would result in missing out on its many benefits, according to Maria Posada (COL ’24), a first-year student from London currently living on campus.
“If they had formulated the program in a way that we could attend, where all the freshmen could be on campus together at the same time and meet each other, then internationals wouldn’t be so specifically excluded,” Posada said in a phone interview with The Hoya. “We are concerned about social aspects because all the Americans can come and meet each other in person with only freshmen on campus, but the internationals cannot, so it is going to be way harder for us to integrate next semester.”