The International Student Experience

Gurmehar Bajwa / Staff Writer

Working from a different time-zone has most certainly been a challenge for most international students. The issue is with a lot of the classes being synchronous, which forces us to attend classes at the scheduled time irrespective of our circumstances or preferences. Sipping on coffee at 2 AM while you navigate through classwork is not the most pleasant experience. Add to that internet constraints and bandwidth limitations, especially in India, where I’ve struggled to stay on a Zoom meeting without being kicked out of the session. It’s an undeniable fact that online learning isn’t the same as in-person classes, specifically because students tend to feel detached, which makes it easier to lose focus or get distracted. Additionally, we either over-stress because we’re under the impression that we’re constantly falling behind on our deadlines; or we don’t stress at all because the concept of homework doesn’t feel real. 

The greatest problem of all that most international students face, even under normal circumstances, is connecting with people and being part of the campus social life. Navigating through college life and classes can be stressful and online communication doesn’t allow much room for active socialization or networking opportunities. The experience we signed up for tends to get misplaced despite the attempts of several different faculties on campus reaching out. On the other hand, most of us are hesitant to reach out on our own, especially since we don’t know what to expect or how to go about it; it’s a new system to learn for us all. Perhaps it is imperative to understand that everyone is feeling the same way and at some point, we just need to let go of any apprehensions we may have and take it upon ourselves to communicate with someone. 

“To stay or to go?” has been one of the most complex decisions students have had to make, regardless of their time-zones. This is because the penalty of skipping out on class online isn’t as destructive to our schedule as opposed to if we were to attend them in-person. Another issue heavy on the minds of international students, especially those attending this term from their homes, is the uncertainty of travel. As each nation constantly updates and changes its travel restrictions, it gets hard to keep up and ensure travel eligibility and safety. Students have also shared that most of the time the information they received on travel was ambiguous, later causing inconveniences. However, the email sent out by the U-grads Digest last week helped clarify how we could enter Canada, and it also offered helpful tips and checklists to keep in mind before any intended travel.

On the brighter side, we, as international students, got to stay at home and enjoy the company of our families. Fortunately, we have more time to spend quality time with them and cherish our moments together owing to the ongoing situation. Instead of going out to Fat Burger or Mike’s, we get to enjoy home-cooked meals that we’ve missed. COVID and the consequent lockdown hasn’t just affected us but also the professors who now have had a hard time complying with and tending to all the new requirements. In spite of these difficulties, they have been extremely accommodating, ensuring that things go smoothly and provide the best possible experience for everyone involved given the current circumstances.

In the end, it’s a peculiar situation we find ourselves in but can still make the most of it and hope for more stability once things start crawling back to normalcy.  

“Found a new way to communicate with team members! I’m certain after the pandemic is over, each and every meeting that we call for will be weighed if it is absolutely crucial. If not, we can meet over video calls! It has really taught me the importance of communication and value of time, how to maximize productivity, keeping the same situations.“ -Mehul Choudhury

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