By Simbsio Maphosa ’23
Due to the coronavirus pandemic, very few international students were able to be on campus for the fall 2020 and fall 2021 semester. As a result, there was a significant decrease in the population of international students on campus. International students who are taking classes remotely have been facing a unique and even more difficult set of challenges from conflicting time zones to engaging with their peers on campus and connecting with their professors.
Teresa Tina ‘22, an international student from China, said that she could not be on campus this year because of difficulties with international travel. Due to the travel ban issued by the US on China, if she wanted to come to the US, she would have to fly to another country, quarantine for 14 days and then fly to the States. She also needed to quarantine for another 14 days upon her arrival to the US, totalling to about a month long quarantine period. The flight ticket was very expensive and hard to purchase. She was also concerned about the COVID and safety conditions in the US. Teresa mentioned that her parents were also concerned about the highly increased confirmed COVID cases and a spike in hate crime incidents towards the Asian community in the US so she decided to be remote this academic year.
In some countries, US embassies suspended visa application processing due to the coronavirus outbreak. Some international students were not able to obtain visas so that could come to the US. A first year international student shared that it has been very difficult to take classes remotely because they have an unstable internet connection. As a result, they have been experiencing frequent class interrupts and are not able to fully participate during classes. International students noted that despite all the challenges they have been facing, their professors have been very helpful and understanding although they are some classes where their professors cannot be flexible to meet their needs. Most discussion based classes are held synchronously and require full student participation. International students who are taking classes from countries in a different time zone cannot attend classes synchronously like other students so some of them are left with no choice but to drop the classes.
For first year international students, they never imagined that their entire first year college experience will be entirely through a computer screen. All the excitement of travelling to a new country, meeting new people and learning a different culture has been replaced by isolation. International students who are remote cannot participate in on campus activities and it has been difficult for them to connect with their peers on campus. They feel very isolated because they are not able to spend time with their friends back home since they are taking classes at night and resting during the day inorder to keep up with their class schedules. It has been very hard for them to adapt to college life and most of them are struggling academically. They have limited access to resources on campus. International students are a very important part of the Bucknell community and they need everyone’s support to academically succeed. The challenges that remote international students have been facing have had a significant impact on their physical well being and mental health.