International student tackles additional COVID-19 academic challenges

Junior+Lavanya+Srivastava+poses+for+a+photo+in+Muscat%2C+Oman.+Srivastava%2C+junior+in+LAS%2C+is+conducting+her+classwork+from+home+rather+than+from+campus.

Photo Courtesy of Lavanya Srivastava

Junior Lavanya Srivastava poses for a photo in Muscat, Oman. Srivastava, junior in LAS, is conducting her classwork from home rather than from campus.

By Elizabeth Sayasane, Features Editor

As the University moved the majority of its classes online for the semester with a few options for in-person lectures and labs, students faced the difficult decision of where to study for the semester. Some had already signed leases for the year and decided to come back to campus even if all their classes were online. Others specifically adjusted their schedules to allow themselves to stay home and work remotely.

For international students, this choice carried additional weight. Domestic students could always move back home if they decided campus was unsafe or move back on campus if being at home was too difficult. For students whose homes are across an ocean, though, travel restrictions would make their choice difficult to reverse if it did not work out one way or another.

Lavanya Srivastava, junior in LAS, took the plunge and moved back home to Muscat, Oman for the semester.

Srivastava said in an email, “I chose to study remotely this year because it’s safer, of course, but it has also been a great opportunity to experience college a little differently.”

Oman is located on the southeastern coast of the Arabian Peninsula. The flight from Chicago to Muscat takes between 16 and 17 hours and is nine hours ahead of Central Standard Time.

This means that any synchronous classes Srivastava has in the traditional 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. time bracket happens between the hours of 6 p.m. and 2 a.m., which has been difficult to approach for her.

“The difference in time zones sometimes makes it difficult to be as responsive as I’d like to,” she said. “There have also been instances where I’ve had to take midterms way early in the morning, which sometimes isn’t the most convenient option.”

She said she wished professors were more understanding and compassionate in that regard.

“Couple things I definitely worry about are accidentally missing out on assignments or confusing the times for certain deadlines because of the difference in time zones,” she said.

The physical distance from campus has also affected her attitude towards her classes. When everything takes place online and students have no face-to-face contact with their peers, it can be difficult to maintain the same degree of enthusiasm.

Srivastava said staying motivated has been difficult for her this semester.

“It also gets quite difficult to attend all your classes and work as hard and with the same drive as you would if you were on campus,” Srivastava said.

The precautions being taken on campus, Srivastava said, did make her proud of the University. Her friends on campus have told her that the University’s management of testing and the precautions being put into place have been great.

Nonetheless, Srivastava said that she has experienced a couple of positive benefits to being a student while living at home. She said she does not have to worry about doing her laundry or preparing her own meals since those are taken care of for her. This has given her the chance to focus more on classes and schoolwork.

She is now also able to spend more quality time around her family, especially since quarantine has kept everyone inside.

Of her experiences so far this semester, Srivastava said it “could probably make for an interesting story to tell in the future.”

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