By Taiba Azeem
Every semester, more than 300 international students find a stable home at SUNY Plattsburgh, but this semester has been even more unique and challenging for foreign Cardinals than usual.
Due to the pandemic, SUNY Plattsburgh has been offering a blended academic delivery model, focused on on-campus instruction, research and scholarship activities as far as possible, while keeping faculty, students and staff safe for the fall semester.
This has led to many international students waiting with bated breath to attend college in the U.S, but will study remotely through online classes.
Cintia Chmia Torrecillas, a first year graduate student, finds the entire process of online classes liberating as she can easily continue her studies while sitting in her room in pajamas.
“I can very conveniently study in my comfort zone without being uneasy,” Torrecillas said.
Meanwhile,self-identified morning person, Hana Nishizawa, a freshman journalism major, finds it quite troublesome to continue her online classes from her home in Japan. With the 13-hour difference, most of her classes are after midnight. She finds her concentration level decreasing and finds it especially hard to actively participate in her 3 a.m. Zoom call lectures.
International students not only come from different countries and cultures, they are also used to different curriculums of study. Even in normal circumstances, it takes more than a semester for international students to adjust to their new situation and way of study, but in these not-so-normal circumstances there might be even more unconventional methods the students must adjust to.
“In Japan, we usually do not have discussions in class, we just take notes during the entire lecture,” Nishizawa said. “Even asking questions is discouraged. But after attending a week of classes at Plattsburgh, I have gotten a culture shock, as the professors actively interact with students, and this participation is graded too.”
Torrecillas is one of the few international students who were able to travel from her home country to Plattsburgh and choose to continue with the hybrid system of studying rather than completely online like other international students chose. After her long and tiring trip to Plattsburgh,Torrecillas was surprised to see that her adviser from the Global Education Office brought her basic necessities and groceries for her as a welcome gift.
While many international students are fluent in English, in most cases it is not their first language. This language barrier specifically comes into play in these online classes as the chances of being unable to understand someone is even higher. Nishizawa admits she is very self-conscious about her knowledge of English but with continuous interactions with friends and teachers, she feels she will excel at it.
“From my standpoint, everything has a positive and a negative aspect,” Torrecillas said. “In the case of online classes, the positive aspect is the availability of quality education even in this global crisis with all the essential safety measures. But the negative aspect will be the very limited interactions with classmates resulting in difficulty making friends.”