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If It’s 3:30 a.m., It Must Be Time for Online Class

“Zoom University,” a term frequently used to describe online classes, has left college students around the world dissatisfied and anxious. (Maddie Joung/VOA)
“Zoom University,” a term frequently used to describe online classes, has left college students around the world dissatisfied and anxious. (Maddie Joung/VOA)

It’s 3:30 a.m. It’s almost time for class.

I take a moment to stare into my pitch-black room. I always set my alarm 30 minutes before class starts so I don’t oversleep. Sometimes I hit the snooze button to get an extra 10 minutes of rest.

After a few minutes, I get up and slowly open my door. I tiptoe to the kitchen to get a glass of water, careful not to wake my sleeping family members.

As I click the link into the Zoom classroom, my professor greets everyone with a “Good afternoon.” It’s 2 p.m. in Virginia, but 4 a.m. in South Korea. Some of my classmates sip on their afternoon coffee on their patio before class begins.

I wish I had coffee.

As of Dec. 1, more than 224 million students have been affected by school closures, according to the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization.
As of Dec. 1, more than 224 million students have been affected by school closures, according to the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization.

When the first couple of cases were reported in the United States in January, South Korea was the second most infected country in the world with around 10,000 cases. I was more worried about my family back home.

They would update me regularly about the strict coronavirus guidelines and how the government passed a mask mandate where people could only purchase two N-95 face masks per week.

When they asked how I was doing, I reassured them that I was fine and that there were only a few cases. This was in February.

But as cases began to climb at a frightening speed in early March, my parents and I decided it would be best to be with family during this bizarre time.

I was one of the thousands of international students who returned to their home countries that month due to the coronavirus pandemic.

I knew that this meant I’d have to take courses during the middle of the night and become a master of time zones. Online courses are definitely not the most ideal way to absorb information, but because I was so close to graduating, I decided to finish my degree online in South Korea.

This semester, my synchronous classes started at 3 a.m., 11 p.m., and 10 p.m. Then Daylight Saving Time pushed time an hour back. Needless to say, I don’t really have a set sleep schedule at this point.

But like most people around the world, this year was all about adjusting and becoming flexible with one’s schedule and surroundings, so I told myself this was an adjustment I’d have to make.

“Zoom University,” a term frequently used to describe online classes, has left college students around the world dissatisfied and anxious.

“Six hours in school is better than three hours in online classes,” tweeted Muhd Akif Bin Azmi, a student attending Form Six college in Petaling Jaya, Malaysia. His tweet struck a chord with thousands of people, garnering more than 99,000 likes and nearly 31,000 retweets.

In a report surveying 290 university students in South Korea, 56% said they were planning to take a leave of absence for the 2020 fall semester with low satisfaction for online courses being the top reason. The main complaint? “I would rather take a leave of absence than take a class that only reads Powerpoint.”

New enrollment of international students dropped 43% because of COVID-19 in the academic school year that began four months ago, according to the Institute of International Education. Nearly 40,000 students — mostly incoming freshmen — have deferred enrollment at 90% of U.S. institutions.

Many students struggled at the beginning of the year with the abrupt shift to virtual learning, prompting universities to switch to pass/fail grading options or cut back on tuition. Some universities extended pass/fail grading options for the fall semester as the coronavirus continued to spread at alarming rates.

Despite setbacks, I’m grateful for the position I am in and understand it is a privilege to be able to continue my education online.

Millions of other students have been derailed from their studies because the coronavirus pandemic has created a global education emergency. As of December 1, more than 224 million students have been affected by school closures, according to the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO).

For children, the number is even higher. More than 1 billion children are out of school because of closures across 188 countries, according to the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF).

Students are not the only ones struggling with online classes. Parents, teachers and university professors have expressed their frustrations and concerns with online learning.

In the end, 2020 has proven to be one of the strangest and most devastating times for millions around the world. We’ve all had to sacrifice, adjust, adapt and heal in our own ways.

On the bright side, I’ve learned to work under tough conditions and deliver and become a flexible, strategic thinker.

And as my college journey comes to an end, I do think that this has been a character-building experience and I know I’m going to exit this situation better than when I came into it.

I have my graduation ceremony to look forward to! It will be virtual.

At 4 AM KST.

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Students learn protests can affect job prospects

FILE - Students protesting against the war in Gaza, and passersby walking through Harvard Yard, are seen at an encampment at Harvard University in Cambridge, Mass., on April 25, 2024.
FILE - Students protesting against the war in Gaza, and passersby walking through Harvard Yard, are seen at an encampment at Harvard University in Cambridge, Mass., on April 25, 2024.

Some students in the U.S. are learning their public stances on the Israel-Hamas war are having an impact on job prospects.

Financial Times reports that protest activities are turning up in background checks, and employers have revoked employment offers to students as a result. (June 2024)

UCLA names new chancellor as campus is still reeling from protests over Israel-Hamas war

Dr. Julio Frenk, the next chancellor of UCLA, listens to questions at a news conference, June 12, 2024, in Los Angeles.
Dr. Julio Frenk, the next chancellor of UCLA, listens to questions at a news conference, June 12, 2024, in Los Angeles.

The president of the University of Miami was chosen Wednesday to become the next chancellor of the University of California, Los Angeles, where the retiring incumbent leaves a campus roiled by protests over Israel's war against Hamas in Gaza.

Dr. Julio Frenk, a Mexico City-born global public health researcher, was selected by regents of the University of California system at a meeting on the UCLA campus, where there were a swarm of security officers.

Frenk will succeed Gene Block, who has been chancellor for 17 years and announced his planned retirement long before UCLA became a national flashpoint for U.S. campus protests. This spring, pro-Palestinian encampments were built and cleared by police with many arrests, and again this week, there were more arrests.

Frenk has led the 17,000-student University of Miami since 2015 and previously served as dean of the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health and as Mexico's national health secretary, among other positions.

In a brief press conference, Frenk said he was approaching the appointment with excitement and humility.

"The first thing I plan to do is listen very carefully," Frenk said. "This is a complex organization. It is, as I mentioned, a really consequential moment in the history of higher education."

Frenk did not comment on specific protests at UCLA this spring or the current administration's response, which initially tolerated an encampment but ultimately used police to clear it and keep new camps from forming.

During public comment in the regents meeting, speakers criticized UC administrators, alleged police brutality, complained of a lack of transparency in UC endowments and called for divestment from companies with ties to Israel or in weapons manufacturing.

Speakers also talked about experiencing antisemitism on campus and called for an increased law enforcement response to protesters.

Later, about 200 people rallied, including members of an academic student workers union and the Faculty for Justice for Palestine group as well as students from other UC campuses. Participants held signs calling for charges to be dropped against protesters who have been arrested.

Block departs UCLA on July 31. Darnell Hunt, executive vice president and provost, will serve as interim chancellor until Frenk becomes UCLA's seventh chancellor on January 1, 2025.

In previous roles, Frenk was founding director of Mexico's National Institute of Public Health, held positions at the World Health Organization and the nonprofit Mexican Health Foundation, and was a senior fellow with the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation's global health program.

Frenk received his medical degree from the National University of Mexico in 1979. He then attended the University of Michigan, where he earned master's degrees in public health and sociology, and a joint doctorate in medical care organization and sociology.

Experts: US will have nearly 2 million international students by 2034

FILE - People line up outside McKale Memorial Center on the University of Arizona campus, Jan. 12, 2011, in Tucson, Ariz.
FILE - People line up outside McKale Memorial Center on the University of Arizona campus, Jan. 12, 2011, in Tucson, Ariz.

Experts predict the U.S. will enroll nearly 1.8 million international students by 2034, ICEF Monitor reports.

Most of the students will hail from India, along with China, Vietnam, Nigeria, Bangladesh, Nepal, Brazil and Mexico, the analysis says.

Read the story here. (May 2024)

UCLA gets its first international student undergraduate council president

FILE - The UCLA campus on April 25, 2019.
FILE - The UCLA campus on April 25, 2019.

An international student will lead the Undergraduate Students Association Council at UCLA for the first time.

Adam Tfayli, who is from Lebanon, won the presidential race, beating out five other candidates.

Student newspaper the Daily Bruin has the story here. (May 2024)

Examining the facts behind US international student boom

FILE - Students listen during commencement in Harvard Yard, at Harvard University, in Cambridge, Mass., May 23, 2024.
FILE - Students listen during commencement in Harvard Yard, at Harvard University, in Cambridge, Mass., May 23, 2024.

The U.S. international student population is booming.

The Chicago Tribune takes a look at the trend and what it means for colleges. Read the story here. (May 2024)

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