International students hold opposing opinions about asynchronous learning


Graphic courtesy of Mariia Lykhtar (‘22).

Mariia Lykhtar (‘22) enjoys mother nature and explores the mountains in Luxemburg, where around 500 new COVID-19 cases are reported daily.

During the week of November 9th, Webb students anxiously awaited news on the decision whether to open the campus up for students or to continue remote online learning for another module. This decision is especially difficult for international students to make because health, convenience, and safety all weigh in more when home is a ten-hour flight away. 

The US hit another record on November 11th, 2020 a shocking 11 million cumulative COVID-19 cases recorded, surpassing 250,000 deaths nationwide. Almost every state has increased massively in the percentage of new cases daily, and states such as Texas, and California have surpassed the million-case mark total. According to the CDC website, California had 47,408 new cases in the last week, joining the US in the uncontrollable case surge.  

Amir Afzali (‘21) has been spending time in Bangkok, Thailand, where about ten new cases are reported daily. He feels positive that his return to Webb will be delayed until the United States has a more structured and effective response to COVID-19. Webb’s decision to open or not does not influence his judgment.  

California having 47,000 cases just plays a part into my response, it is further evidence. It does not make sense to leave safety to attend Webb, Amir said. The evening schedule overall has been working pretty well. It is hard to stay connected to the domestic community, but I try to text or call my friends occasionally, and I try to join our Discord.”  

Teddy Meng (‘23) has a similar view: as COVID-19 cases increase, the chances of him returning to Webb decrease. He feels more comfortable at home in Shanghai, China, spending time doing online school and seeing friends. China in general only had a few cases reported daily. Webb hosts multiple weekend zoom events, that intend to bring the community closer together while giving opportunities to learn new crafts or cultural experiences, something that interests Teddy, although he has yet to participate. 

“I do not really feel connected to the domestic community, since I only use WeChat now. Maybe I should attend more Webb events?” Teddy said. “The evening schedule is working well for me now because I do not have to get up early. 

Koki Mashita (‘22) has a different perspective on his return. He has been residing in Karuizawa, Japan, where, in total, has around a thousand new cases daily.  

“Whether Webb opens or not in January, I will be returning to California regardless of the case numbers,” Koki said. “I feel more distracted in my afternoon online class compared to the morning classes. I spend time with the domestic community online, conversating through calls.” 

Mariia Lykhtar (‘22) resides in Mallorca, Spain. As for now, she is adamant in her decision to return to California and to Webb, although the cases may be increasing in Spain as well.  

“I would prefer not to quarantine but realize it is necessary and am happy that there are hotels reserved for that purpose,” Mariia said. “I do not really feel connected to the domestic community because all Webb events are usually held at a time during which I cannot attend. I participate in my leadership role, so that is how I stay connected with the domestic population.” 

Naomi Kang (‘24) agrees that travelling from Seoul to California, where cases are rising rapidly, will increase the risk of infecting other parties. Additionally, she has had negative past experiences in quarantine, turning her away from the idea of returning to Webb as soon as possible.  

“My teachers recommend that I join the community events, but I prefer to use my free time to connect with my family, continue to do homework, and rest,” Naomi said. “But if Webb is planning to open, I think I would attend despite the quarantine and risk. I think that online lessons are just too lethargic and stressful because I sleep really late and my whole schedule is just messed up. 

There is no surprise that international students are experiencing a melting pot of emotions. They are generally divided on the issue, some arguing that the cases heavily influence their decision, others disliking the evening schedule and preferring a timely return to campus.  

On November 16th, 2020, the Webb Executive Board has released a decision to remain virtual for the rest of the fall semester and module four. This decision poses new challenges to the students from all around the globe. This school year has been difficult for all of us, and if faculty and students are working closely together, we can create a beneficial learning environment for everyone, no matter where we reside.