nternational student Yuwen Wan finishes her last virtual class around 5:00 a.m. in China.

International student Yuwen Wan finishes her last virtual class around 5:00 AM in China. Credit: Courtesy of Yuwen Wan

While most Ohio State students are getting ready for their first classes at 9 a.m., Yuwen Wan is closing her laptop and getting ready for bed — more than 7,000 miles away from campus.

According to the spring 2020 15th-day enrollment report, there are 6,239 international students at Ohio State. Due to the COVID-19 travel restrictions, in-person class limitations and uncertainty about returning to campus amid a pandemic, some of those students — like Wan, a second-year in journalism who lives in Chongqing, China — chose to remain in their home countries and attend classes virtually.

“I adjust my studying time to fit my time zone,” Wan said. “Only two of my courses are synchronous.” 

In her time zone, which is 12 hours ahead of Columbus, Wan’s synchronous courses are at midnight and 5:30 a.m.

According to the Office of International Affairs, international students attending Ohio State in fall 2020 are able to sustain their F-1 visa status even while studying at home. In July, the Federal Student and Exchange Visitor Program granted students permission to maintain their status if they choose to enroll in full-time virtual classes.   

Although students choosing to stay at home amid the pandemic are not responsible for housing and dining payments, they are undertaking many other responsibilities, which can be a struggle for those living with drastic time zone differences.  

For Yutong Guo, a first-year in communication living in China, the adjustment has both its ups and downs.  

“Honestly, I think I like online courses much more because all my classes are full online courses, and I just need to watch the videos,” Guo said.

Guo is studying remotely from her home in Nanjing, which is 12 hours ahead of Columbus. She said online school from the other side of the hemisphere is presenting its challenges, but some tools are helping her along. 

“In China, the connection to the internet is annoying because I need to watch the videos, and uploading homework took me a lot of time,” Guo said. “The due dates are a big problem for me, but the Canvas system can help me track when to do homework, so I’m not very stressed.”  

Guo said most of her professors offered pre-recorded lectures for which she can enable subtitles, a tool which helps with language comprehension. 

“It’s sometimes hard to understand the words from the professor [without subtitles],” Guo said.

Wan agreed, noting that it’s helpful to be able to pause lecture videos and work at her own pace. But Wan said she still preferred in-person classes, and both she and Guo plan to attend in-person classes in the spring.

“I’m very nervous about it because I’ve never been abroad before,” Wan said. “I just want to use this opportunity (to study at Ohio State) to improve myself.”