International distance learners face challenges with online class

Mia C. Vu

With the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, many international students have no choice but to become distance learners.
88 is the total number of international students doing distance learning, as reported by the Office of International Student and Scholar Services (OISSS). Five of them are first-year students, having to experience freshman year of college via computer screen.
With all classes now online, there are many challenges that international distance learners have to cope with. One challenge being the difference in time zones. 
Sophomore Saisha Bhandari is a Global Ambassador working closely with international first-year and the OISSS.
“I have an online ‘nugget’ [mentee] from Nepal who is doing online classes with thirteen hours of time difference,” Bhandari said. “He has to stay up the whole night, which is such a hard thing to imagine.”
First-year Kiet Vu has to do distance learning from Vietnam after his return last spring. For him, taking all classes online requires a lot of effort and patience.
“I am twelve hours ahead, so it is very difficult to adapt to the time difference. My sleeping habit was changed completely,” Vu said. 
The time difference is not the only matter that concerns Vu. He said it was hard to get all of the materials needed and to schedule appointments with professors outside of class, as opposed to when he was on campus with lots of resources.
“Still, I am very happy that my professors are all trying to help me with a variety of modules and some alternatives for class schedule,” Vu said. “Having the OISSS email us [international students] about what is happening on campus and the U.S. also makes me feel included.”
 According to Dr. Xong Sony Yang, director of the OISSS, the office held four check-ins last week to keep up with international distance learners. The OISSS gathers information and concerns online international students might have regarding classes and resources, then shares those matters to the academic affairs anonymously.
 “By doing so, the college can efficiently assist online students and identify agendas that need to take better care of,” Yang said.
Apart from overcoming academic difficulties, online international students experience heightened uncertainty concerning immigration and the process of obtaining visa and student status. 
“For international students, especially ‘nuggets,’ being a distance learner is quite risky right now because it doesn’t guarantee international students a visa or a F-1 status for the upcoming term,” Bhandari said. 
As of right now, the immigration policy only governs fall term and J-term, and it is hard to say whether the policy will be changed or not amid the global pandemic.
 “It is one of the biggest issues that distance learners and the OISSS are facing,” Xong Sony Yang said, “As international advisors, [Juanita Trevino-Perez] and I, are patiently and anxiously waiting for the new immigration rules to come out to give guidance to the international students to make a better plan.” 
“I really hope everyone knows that the OISSS will continue to be their home base for international students, whether they are in their home countries, in the U.S. or here on campus,” Xong Sony Yang said. “Remain healthy and understand that will slowly pass and we are all in this together.”