Learning Remotely From Twelve Time Zones Away

Angie Jin

     Whether in person or online, students are adjusting to going back to school worldwide. Students who study abroad and have gone back to their home country after the transition to online learning in mid-March face a hard decision whether to head back to the country they study with risks or do remote learning with huge time differences for this academic year. This situation happens to international students at our school as well, with ten of them remote learning in China right now.

      As school reopens this fall, only a few students are still learning remotely, and it is especially difficult for students who are still living in China. Being awake from 8:00 p.m. until midnight every school day and studying with twelve-hour time differences are not the only difficulties they are facing. Due to government controls, most of the platforms teachers expect students to learn with or submit assignments from are blocked, including Zoom, Youtube, and many Google functions.  The most common way to deal with this situation is to use VPNs, virtual private networks, to redirect their locations away from mainland China while attending classes. However, they are not always reliable, so international students can always expect to have some sort of technical issues during their online study. Fortunately, everyone who is learning remotely has been receiving full support from the school and faculty. This includes offering recorded videos for classes in the afternoon, adjusted due dates, and scheduling extra help in the morning before school starts. 

     Yixuan Chen is new to our school this year and is currently studying online in Beijing. Logged on via Zoom, learning in a completely different environment, seeing so many new faces at the same time, she initially was very nervous as this is her first time studying abroad. Though the time difference is challenging, Yixuan Chen believes that the adjustment to a new education system and new teachers is even more difficult. While she is going through this new transition, she feels lucky that everyone here is nice and friendly, and really enjoys talking to people who are doing online study as well. Additionally, she appreciates that all of the faculty are willing to answer any questions she has about the school or her classes.

     Kent Huang is another international student who has chosen to do remote learning in China. He describes his online study experience as very tiring but fulfilling at the same time. He said: “At nights, instead of relaxing, now I have to be up, awake, and extremely focused. Having flexibility with scheduling is really important to be able to be successful with online school while I have pushed my bedtimes further and further down the road to a point that I am almost living in the New York time zone again. Even though time management is a big issue, the recorded videos of classes have helped me a lot.” According to him, the most impressive memory he had was staying up until 4:00 in the morning to make up a lab and a test with Mrs. Taylor for his AP Environmental Science class. However, he sees the advantage of doing online school– not physically being at school allows him to travel to many different places, such as Xichuan and Hainan while finishing his daily courses.

     Covid-19 has disrupted education worldwide, especially for international students at US schools. Learning with twelve-hour differences and platform restrictions is difficult for any of the remote learners, but the support they have been receiving and all the changes made for them are making the prospect of continued online learning easier. In the meantime, the flexibility of doing remote learning allows international students to spend more time with their families and friends, to stay in the environment they are more familiar with, and to discover many places inside the country.