USD Community Rallies to Connect with International Students During the Pandemic

When state and county COVID-19 guidelines forced the University of San Diego to switch to a remote learning experience in March, more than half of USD’s international student community went home to their respective countries. Yet, despite the physical distance, the USD community rallied together, looking for ways to stay connected to international, and domestic students during remote learning. 

Denise Dimon, Associate Provost for International Affairs, received several personal emails from USD faculty in March, asking her: ‘How can I help?’

“It really put our international students front and center in many ways because their challenges were greater. Faculty, staff and the administration realized that some of the decisions that were being made – right away, it was, how might this affect international students? How might this make a difference for our international community? The concern that we had for them, in setting up structures and things, they were front and center in how our policies could impact them,” said Dimon.

A team consisting of academic advisors, student affairs, and the International Center, reached out to every single international student, a USD community that consists of more than 700 international students and scholars, to connect and provide any necessary support.

“We had many ways that we tried to connect and keep our international students engaged not only so they could advance in learning, which is primary to us as a university, but also so they could feel engaged and part of the community which, I think, is something so important that the University of San Diego offers,” said Dimon.

Nika and Kaja Burja were two of those connections. The junior students have been back in their home country of Slovenia since July. They initially struggled with a 9-hour time difference and also finding a quiet, and engaging, place to study while back home. However, the twin sisters say their professors were incredibly accommodating with their new challenges.

“The time difference was the hardest thing to get used to but I have to add that professors have been so understanding about it...For one of my classes, which I don’t attend because it’s super late, my professor has taken time to talk with me outside of class. We have a meeting scheduled every Tuesday and we meet and talk about class,” said Nika Burja. 

Nika and Kaja are also board members of the International Student Organization (ISO) at USD which has been a big help in staying connected to friends and the campus community.

“We did a virtual movie night and now we’re doing a holiday dinner – basically everyone is making videos of them cooking traditional food…things like that make it so much easier to be connected, to feel like you’re basically in San Diego with everyone, even though you’re in different continents,” said Kaja Burja.

 Nika and Kaja hope to come back to San Diego for the upcoming spring semester if hybrid classes are offered.


Elena Gomez
(619) 260-2739