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International Students Staying Active & Involved Despite Pandemic’s Challenges

Between Penn State’s hybrid mode of class delivery, travel restrictions, and embassy closures, many international students are staying home and taking their classes remotely this fall semester.

However, despite the many obstacles, these students have managed to stay active and involved while studying thousands of miles away from State College.

Jessie Nguyen, a student from Vietnam, has been taking classes at night due to her 11-hour time difference. She’s also interning at DatVietVAC Group Holdings, Vietnam’s first privately owned media and communications agency, during the day.

“I am interning at a corporation that does TV shows and news, basically media and entertainment,” Nguyen said. “It’s the best corporation in this kind of industry. They basically produce game shows and movie dramas.”

Nguyen added it’s tough taking classes so late at night. Juggling her responsibilities alongside her daytime internship has been a challenge so far.

Asynchronous learning is something that has drastically helped her combat the large time-zone difference. She says it helps her balance her schedule and prevent her from staying up too late.

“Some professors post their lectures after they teach,” Nguyen said. “If they post the lectures, I can watch it anytime, and I don’t have to be exactly there at 2 a.m.”

Halfway across the world, Valentina Jaramillo, a student from Panama, is working in a four-month internship in human resources. She chose to take a gap semester to explore her interests.

“I am doing an internship that I wouldn’t have been able to do at Penn State,” Jaramillo said. “I am getting more involved in university clubs. It’s something I couldn’t do before and now that I don’t have as much on my plate, I can.”

Following Panama’s coronavirus safety policies, Jaramillo is also enjoying the beach, which is a short trip over a bridge away from her home.

“I love going to the beach which is something I can’t do at State College at all,” Jaramillo said. “It doesn’t really get crowded at the beaches because you can only go with your parents.”

Jaramillo says she misses going to the Pattee and Paterno Library to study. Last semester she co-founded a club, the Latinx Women Association, with other girls she met at the library.

“[The library] is honestly the number one thing I miss about Penn State,” Jaramillo said. “It was my home, and now I can’t be there.”

Antra Gupta, a freshman from India, still hasn’t gotten the chance to step on campus but is managing to keep involved in different organizations and clubs from a distance.

“Whenever I find anything interesting, I join the GroupMe and then I attend the meetings,” Gupta said. “I made some online friends before I got the chance to get on campus.” 

She is not having much trouble in her timezone because most of her classes are 8 a.m. which in India is 5:30 p.m. She keeps organized by using Google Calendars.

“I go to sleep at 6:30 a.m., wake up at 12 p.m., and then start working so the cycle is kind of reversed,” Gupta explained.

While in New Delhi, she is enjoying Indian street food — something that’s certainly not too prevalent in Centre County.

“While studying, I eat a lot of Panipuri, which is a circular hollow crackle that is kind of soft, and there is a hole in it, and you put in any fillings that you want,” Gupta said.

She said she’s excited to go to Penn State to meet all of the people that she connected with online and to get the true college experience. She hopes that one day, she will have an in-person class.

Tarum Lakshman, another student from India, has also been taking the opportunity to eat Indian dishes that can’t be found in State College and hang out with his dog. He tries to keep a steady schedule and takes his classes at night.

“Obviously your sleep schedule changes, but there’s nothing really different,” Lakshman said. “You barely notice with all the classes and everything else going on.”

Lakshman is looking forward to visiting the new Yallah location and playing soccer with his friends in the IM Building.

“I don’t miss getting frostbite, though,” he joked, referencing the temperature difference from Chennai, his hometown, and State College.

Isidro Ycaza, a student from Ecuador, is also enjoying the sand, seawater, and warm weather while at home. He hangs out with friends and goes to the beach as much as he can. However, Ycaza is extremely excited to go back to Penn State in the spring.

“Penn State is the best environment I have ever been to,” Ycaza said. “It’s just awesome.”

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About the Author

Renata Daou

Renata is a junior majoring in International Politics and one of Onward State's contributors. She's from Manaus, Amazonas, Brazil and no, she doesn't live in the middle of the Amazon forest. She likes learning new languages, reading, writing, and talking about the one time she went bungee jumping.
Follow her on Twitter @renatadaou to see her rant in Portenglish or e-mail her at [email protected] for serious inquires.

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