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What International Students Have Been Experiencing Amid COVID-19

September marked the start of a new semester for Barnard and Columbia students. However, for many students, this year is far from normal. Not only are many students not on campus, but they are not even within the United States. For these international students, here are some of the difficulties that are commonly faced.

The time difference

This is not a surprise. For many students, the time difference is 12 or more hours. Some students tried to continue attending lectures synchronously. Others had courses that took place in the afternoon Eastern Standard Time, which meant they would have to stay up until dawn. Some chose to watch lectures asynchronously, but fear that doing so will reduce the amount of material they absorb. In either case, international students had to make major adjustments to their daily schedules to accommodate for the time issue.

The lack of face-to-face communication

The transition from on-campus to all-online made it harder for all of us to communicate and connect with classmates and other students. This strain is incredibly difficult for transfer students. Grace, a Barnard junior transfer majoring in economics, echoed this sentiment, saying, “[Junior] transfers have limited time to get to know the campus.” They also didn’t get a chance to meet other Columbia and Barnard students, making it harder to form study groups or hang out with friends after class.

Technological difficulties

Many international students have had technology struggles. During a discussion with Sally, a junior at Barnard studying film, she indicated that she faced many technical difficulties during the first months since school started. Specifically, she was unable to access Zoom at times due to connection issues and she wasn’t always registered as a student on Courseworks. These ongoing issues continue to prevent international students from receiving the quality of education they desire.

Here is what international students hope the school will do to accommodate them moving forward:

1. Provide more information and guidance for international students: 

The university should provide students more access and help to guide them through this challenging time. Particularly for new students and transfer students, it would be beneficial to know what resources Columbia has available for them. This guidance would be useful even for returning students, as they have never experienced college in this form before.

2. Connect more with international students:

One way to tighten the Barnard and Columbia international group is to increase and offer more social events and other activities for international students. Many upperclassmen I talked to indicated an interest in having more networking events and opportunities so that people in places worldwide — and in the Eastern hemisphere in particular — can participate. Another suggestion included creating more study spaces in more cities. 

International students are an important part of the community at Barnard and Columbia. They would benefit from additional opportunities and support from the university amid the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Lily Cai

Columbia Barnard '23

Lily is a sophomore at Barnard College, intending to double major in economics and computer science. Apart from school, she loves trying out new food and cuisines. She also enjoys listening to music, reading books, and watching Netflix. Lily would love to meet new people and feel free to reach out to her!