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How Have International Students Coped with Time Zone Differences While Zoom Learning 2020-2021?

For international students who are residing outside the U.S., yet still taking classes online, the challenge of adapting to virtual learning has been aggravated by many factors, most notably the time zone differences. 

Amy Nguyễn ‘23, is a student currently locating in Vietnam, which is 11 hours ahead of Massachusetts. In the fall semester 2020, she enrolled in a class that started at 7:00 PM EST, which is 6:00 AM ICT (the time zone in Vietnam). 

Amy shares: “The class starts very early in the morning, while I also had another one that ends at 11 PM ICT. Luckily, because it’s online learning, all I need to do is to turn on my laptop. I think I cannot make it to an in-person class that starts at 6:00 AM.”   

Amy also mentions how sometimes her sleeping schedule was disrupted: “Because I was very afraid of missing my morning class, I decided to stay awake to wait for my 6:00 AM class many times. Therefore, [during the morning class], I always felt like [I was] in a dream.”   

Setting up for other academic engagements such as office hours and tutoring sessions also consumes more time and needs constant rescheduling. Amy notes: “Office hours with my professors were usually at around 3:00, 4:00 AM (ICT), so I could not make it. Although I set up appointments, they typically occurred at odd times. Tutoring sessions for my language class were also around early morning.” 

“For group work, I always met up with my classmates right after class. That was the only time when all of us were free,” Amy shares.  

Acknowledging the difficulty of attending classes in the early morning, Amy learns from experience that she shouldn’t register for very early morning classes in the spring semester 2021. She had to give up some classes that she was eager to register due to the discrepancy between the two time zones. Fortunately, Amy was able to register for classes that occur around evening to night time in Vietnam. 

“I wish I had known this before the online academic year commenced: I should register for two classes that happen consecutively so that I don’t oversleep between the two classes,” Amy says. She also shared a tip on how to cope with nocturnal college life: “The thing that I’m afraid most is oversleeping, so I think I should have a good sleep and take a nap whenever I can.” 

Similar to Chau Anh, I’m also residing in Vietnam, and have encountered some problems due to the time zone conflict. In the fall semester, I completely forgot that the Daylight Savings Time 2020 ended on Sunday, November 1. Vietnam doesn’t utilize the practice of advancing the clock, so time always stays the same. It is easy to forget this practice once I’m outside the American environment. Thus, on the next day, I missed my first class. After this incident, I started using Google Calendar to schedule my classes, setting it to EST so that the electronic calendar will always notify me in case there is a change in time. Whereas before, I’d always preferred noting my schedule down in my journal, not being dependent too much on technological gadgets. 

Hinako Yamaguchi ‘22 is residing in Yokohama, Japan, where it is 13 hours ahead of Massachusetts. In the first module of spring semester 2021, Hinako takes a class occurring from 12 am from 1 am. Her other class goes from 9:00 am until 10 am. Similar to Amy, Hinako also encounters the difficulty of staying focused in a morning class. Hinako comments: “I feel like I’m mentally not present, you know. I usually sleep in between my classes which give me about 7 hours to sleep so it’s not that bad, but still pretty tiring.” 

Hinako currently has a full-time job, so she has to also give up classes that occur at around 2-3 PM EST. Hinako says: “It’s been hard balancing work and academics. That being said, it is nice to have something to do other than schoolwork.” 

“As for registration, I try to stick to early morning classes EST (which is an early night for me) because I have work and cannot stay up till 2-4 am,” Hinako further elaborates. 

The inability to participate in on-campus clubs and organizations in order to fully immerse in the on-campus experience is also another inconvenience for Hinako. Hinako was a member of ISOC and a Japanese film club on-campus. Thus, her tips on how to stay connected with the campus environment and friends is to text them whenever she can, and also keeping up with MHC social media accounts. 


 If you would like to write for Her Campus Mount Holyoke, or if you have any questions or comments for us, please email [email protected].  


Thien An (she/her/hers) is currently a junior at Mount Holyoke College, majoring in English, with a minor in History.
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