When BYU-Idaho allowed students to return home due to COVID-19 in March 2020, some students didn’t just return to their home states. Many international students traveled back to their home countries to be with their families.
According to CNBC, the pandemic caused schools, workplaces and other businesses to shut down all over the world to avoid the spread of the virus. As the number of COVID-19 cases rose globally, many governments announced mandatory quarantines to keep as many people safe as possible.
Many BYU-I international students decided to return to their home countries, meaning that they would live in places ahead of or behind Rexburg’s MST.
According to Pearson, “More than 300 million students worldwide are having their education disrupted by the spread of Coronavirus.”
Pamela Espinosa, a junior studying communication, returned home to the Philippines just days after BYU-I made its official announcement in March of Winter Semester 2020. There was still a month left of school, so she attended her classes via Zoom. The Philippines is 15 hours ahead of Rexburg.
“It wasn’t bad at first,” Espinosa said. “For the first few weeks, my body was still used to Rexburg time.”
When Spring Semester 2020 arrived, Espinosa decided to stay with her family in the Philippines due to travel bans and restrictions. Flights in and out of the Philippines were limited for some time, both for Filipino residents and foreigners. She confidently registered for 17 credits.
“I was getting used to taking online classes, so at first they were fine,” Espinosa said.
Months later, she started feeling the difficulty of the demanding workload. At the end of the semester, she decided to take fewer classes. As the fall semester crept closer, she began to browse the BYU-I course catalog for classes to take online.
“For the fall semester, I decided to take 15 credits, and some of my classes had to be remote,” Espinosa said. “I had to plan for the times I was going to be awake to catch my Zoom classes.”
She looked for reasonably timed classes, but it was more difficult than she expected. After the registration period passed, Espinosa was left to attend classes from 9 p.m. to 5 a.m.
In the same time zone, 750 miles away from Espinosa, another BYU-I student struggled through her online and remote classes. Marina Jhu, a sophomore studying biochemistry, found herself falling asleep during her late night and early morning classes.
“When I was taking classes at midnight, it was hard to focus on the instructors’ lessons,” Jhu said.
She stated that staying focused was one of her biggest challenges as she took classes from her home in Taiwan. Due to her unusual sleep schedule, she felt tired at random hours of the day.
“My first semester in Taiwan was kind of hard because I was taking a lot of classes in the middle of the night,” Jhu said. “I had to wake up at 3 or 4 a.m., then after that I needed to do my homework. My sleep time was a little bit weird, it was so broken up.”
Both Espinosa and Jhu returned to Rexburg at the start of Winter Semester 2021. After living in their home countries for months, the two students needed to adjust back to the BYU-I campus setting and to Rexburg’s time zone.
“Everything about being home became routine, so adjusting was hard,” Espinosa stated. “I was home for almost a whole year, so I needed to get used to the time difference, living with other people and the weather.”
Jhu talked about her excitement to resume classes in person, especially after going through difficult months of taking mathematics and chemistry classes online and remotely.
“It’s easier to take classes here,” Jhu said. “There is a difference between seeing my classmates and teachers online and interacting with them in person. Many of my instructors knew students were living in different places.”
In a time of uncertainty and change, both students and teachers have learned to adjust and take advantage of new opportunities. Adjusting to the new online learning system may have been difficult, but it encouraged and inspired growth.
According to BYU-I’s website, “A college education is no longer limited to a campus classroom. At BYU-Idaho, the power of the Internet is utilized to provide students with the flexibility of taking courses and pursuing degrees online — whenever and wherever a student chooses.”
The effects and challenges posed by the global pandemic not only affect those who live in the United States, but also many across the world. BYU-I will continue to support and help their students, international or not, to achieve their goals and find success.