COVID-19 was an unwelcome intruder for Korean students enjoying campus life. For international students seeking to spend most of their time away from home, it gave them their own unique set of challenges.
Edwyna Kurniawan, a sophomore majoring in the Division of International Studies, shared the story of her school life during the pandemic.
Kurniawan stayed in the school dormitory last year and currently lives in a single-room apartment near school, due to the rejection of her spring semester dormitory application.
“I hope that at least the foreign students are allowed to stay in the dormitory as long as the pandemic is ongoing,” Kurniawan said. “I am also surprised that the residents have to move out in a week between the winter and spring semester, although the dormitory claims it is for maintenance and cleaning.”
Kurniawan stated her views on the hybrid class system, a class model where professors give lectures in the assigned classroom along with the online class. Students can either choose to take online classes or attend on-campus classes for the same course. She pointed out that the system is a good balance between those who want to come to school and those who are unable or choose not to come to school. As for the quality of the lectures, she added that it may be better if the professors are given clip-on microphones to enhance the sound quality.
Kurniawan elaborated that the activities in Ewha P.I.E, a club for cultural exchange, helped her adapt to the campus life. She enjoyed meeting people online and learning more about different cultures, especially at a time when traveling to new places is strictly forbidden.
Susana Denouel Boutillier, a senior majoring in the Division of International Studies, shared her experience in attending an on-campus class last year. She reminisced that only two students including herself and the professor were present, which felt strange but was also efficient for having direct interactions. However, she commented that communicating with other students via Zoom while speaking with the professor face-to-face in a single class was inconvenient.
Boutillier had lived in E-House for two years, and moved to her own place near school right before the pandemic broke out. She regarded this as the best decision she had made since it felt more secure and allowed her to attend on-campus classes.
“I did appreciate the surveys about our satisfaction with school life and our mental state,” Boutillier said. “However, I believe more could be done to help us mentally, emotionally and financially, as we are living alone in a foreign country during such a difficult time.”
She also indicated that she had been trying numerous activities in order to overcome the corona blues. She has attended virtual yoga classes, improved her cooking skills at home, created videos and posted them online, and also learned interior design and fashion.
Wang Xiao-yu, a senior in Global Health & Nursing, expressed her discomfort regarding hybrid classes.
“Last year, some of the practical demonstrations were conducted online using the virtual simulation system and some at the hospital,” Wang said. “Even though on-site demonstrations are more efficient for learning, I do think it is very risky, particularly for students majoring in nursing who are exposed to hospital patients.”
The Faculty & Academic Affairs reported that the request for advanced notice for class openings, exam methods, and the fairness with the evaluation for students attending classes online and in- person were the most common queries last year. However, the team responded that they did not receive any suggestions from international students, accepting it as a lack of communication between the school and the foreign students. Therefore, they promised to continue to support students, paying special attention to international students.
“The school has expanded the capacity of CyberCampus, additionally constructed mini studios for the professors, and built an online learning space,” Kang Dong-beom, vice president of the Faculty & Academic Affairs said. “To improve the quality of on-campus classes, we are also preparing to open a bulletin board for suggestions and hold open discussions on them.”