Many Notre Dame international students have been unable to come to campus for the fall 2020 semester due to widespread COVID-19 restrictions and concerns. According to Notre Dame International, one hundred thirty-eight incoming international students were impacted by various COVID-19 complications that did not allow them to arrive on campus in the fall.
Owing to visa processing concerns, first-year chemistry central Cecilia Ignacio was one of the students unable to come to campus.
Ignacio, who comes from Manila, Philippines, said she was worried about applying for a visa because of COVID-19 and not receiving one.
“Three days before I could leave, my embassy opened, so we didn’t want to waste all that money applying for the visa and then we didn’t get it,” Ignacio said.
Elysa Ng May May, a fellow international student, said that her embassy had continually cancelled her interview to apply for her student visa.
A first-year biology major, Ng May May, said that doing her online classes was complicated by the extreme time difference between her hometown of South Bend and Jakarta, Indonesia. She said it was also challenging to balance her job with her part-time job.
The schedule is a little bit off. For instance, my chemistry course was at 1 a.m., but then daylight saving time caused it to be at 2 a.m. So, because I also have a part-time job, it was very exhausting for me,” Ng May May said.
She also struggled with her time zone difference, Ignacio said.
“The time difference is the other way around, so if it’s like 3 p.m. It’s 3 a.m. here. Here,” said Ignacio. “All day I slept, and all night I was awake.”
Many of the incoming international students could continue their studies and were part of a group coined by the “ND explorers.” Sandy Nam, another incoming South Korean international student, explained that the ND explorers had their own sections of on-campus classes they took with others remotely in the same situation.
“Nam said, “One class I took had about 12 students in it, and there were about seven classes open to us. “We didn’t have any interaction with the other students on campus, but sometimes I got to see them when I went to office hours because the professors interacted with other students on campus.”
She also felt very isolated from the campus community, Ng May May said, and it was difficult to make friends remotely.
Ng May May said, “I felt very disconnected from people on campus.” Initially, it was also challenging to make friends with other people because they were on Zoom. It wasn’t as organic as saying hello to somebody in school.
Only because they were classified as non-degree students were the ND explorers allowed to take three classes last semester, this fact, Ng May May said, made the adjustment period more difficult.
I honestly feel that the online school requirements have been slightly lighter so far. Ng May May said, “The grading requirements were less complex than my current courses.” “There are many specifications that I’m still trying to adjust to.”
Over the past semester, Nam said she has come to value how very convenient online courses can be.
“I noticed how convenient, and nice, online classes can be. I thought online classes were so boring in high school before,” Nam said. “But it’s pretty clever to do online when I got into college online classes because you can meet a professor at any time, anywhere.”
Ignacio said she feels that the entire experience has made her more grateful to be on campus at last.
I used to be friends with some people who went to campus. So, I would see them enjoying themselves, and I would be like, “I wish I could be with them,” said Ignacio. “I saw both sides, and I feel that now I can be more thankful.”