Learning Across Borders: International Students’ Challenges With Remote Learning

EvCC’s international students who have returned home during the COVID-19 pandemic discuss their challenges with remote learning.

The learning-across-borders situation caused by the COVID-19 global pandemic has brought about many disturbances and frustrations in EvCC international students who decided to go back to their home countries. Besides those remaining in Washington with many insecurities caused by being away from homes during this pandemic, international students who decided to join their families back home, are dealing with very unique challenges with distance learning. 

EvCC sophomore Chaeyoon Jang in her home country, South Korea on May 17, 2020. (Courtesy photo from Chaeyoon Jang)

Time differences have been a huge factor affecting EvCC international students’ experience with their classes. “The time difference is the most stressful thing about taking classes from home,” said 20-year-old Chaeyoon Jang, an EvCC sophomore from South Korea, who is currently taking three EvCC classes from her home country. Jang is 16 hours ahead of Washington, which means she has to stay up all night most days of the week to join her morning class sessions. “I constantly feel tired during the week,” Jang says.

Another challenge caused by time differences that many EvCC international students overseas are facing is keeping track of their assignment deadlines. Yoochung Cheon, another international student from South Korea, talks about her struggles adjusting her daily schedule to finish her class work on time. “What’s stressing me out is that life is still going on here and I tend to forget I’m still actually going to school and chasing due dates.” Cheon says that she is constantly confused about what date it is between South Korea and Washington, and what assignments will be due on that specific day. Followed by that are many distractions and disturbances in her daily routine, which greatly impact her performance with class. 

Duyen Hoang, an EvCC International Student, prepared for her Zoom class session in Vietnam on May 18, 2020. (Courtesy photo from Duyen Hoang)

Many international students find that remote learning is negatively affecting the quality of course delivery. Duyen Hoang, 19, an international student from Vietnam, says that she always prefers in-person lectures. She believes nothing can replace the classroom dynamic, which makes her more feel comfortable communicating and asking questions with her peers and her teacher. Hoang said, “Since my biology class goes with labs, and having labs means you have to do hands-on experiments to obtain a complete understanding of what you’re taught, but now we can’t, and I’m concerned about that.” 

Besides the difficulties mentioned above, there are many other obstacles and frustrations international students are facing caused by the geographic distance. Hoang says that she has constantly been denied access to  her assigned readings because of the internet firewall in Vietnam. Cheon says that constantly switching between English and Korean during the day has somewhat exhausted her brain lately. 

According to Jeffrey Pannell, staff member of EvCC’s  International Education Office, as of now, about 40% of EvCC international students are reportedly out of Washington studying online from their home countries. To accommodate different time zones, EvCC International Education staff has been doing constant check-ins with those students virtually via Zoom and many kinds of social media at various times of the day, including early morning, afternoon, and late in the evening, to make sure they can easily reach out for immediate assistance.