Dispatches From Students in Different Time Zones Challenges Posed by Remote Learning

by Tianyi F. December 6, 2020

When coronavirus lockdowns were introduced, the shift to remote studying was sudden and sweeping. Our college has entirely canceled face-to-face teaching, including laboratories and other learning experiences, as a mitigation step against the risk posed by the coronavirus. (Students in New York City have the opportunity to use the studio for in-person collaboration, with social distancing precautions in place.) 

In this scenario, taking online courses in different time zones became one of the most challenging issues for students, especially for international students who haven’t arrived in NYC yet. 

First-year student Junbae Choi, based in South Korea.

For students who are currently in East Asia, The time difference has completely disrupted their daily lives.

“It is my first time studying in a different time zone. I always feel tired even if I get enough sleep. I think it is because night and day are flipped around,” said Junbae Choi (Class of 2022), who is currently studying in South Korea. “But the good thing is that it is getting better than before. I just try to live in the New York time zone, not my time zone.”

Similarly, for Chinese students studying on the other side of the globe, the problem of the time difference is a headache. Especially when someone is not in good spirits, the student’s learning efficiency will be greatly reduced.

“I'm trying to adjust my schedule to the New York schedule. The 6am class is no problem for me. I can adapt well. But the 2am programming class, followed by a service design class, makes me feel pretty exhausted,” said Yuxuan Hou (Class of 2022) who is based in Xian, China. “I can’t sleep for most of the night, and the quality of my lessons deteriorated.”

First-year student Yuxuan Hou based in Xian, China.

Physical health has also become a concern, with long-term fatigue and lack of exposure to sunlight causing  problems for some. “I try to do exercise whenever I am able, in order to maintain my health,” said Junbae Choi. This kind of day-night reversal lifestyle will inevitably impact the health of students, which is serious in today's world of outbreaks.

Fortunately, students on the West Coast were not affected by this issue.

“I think my classes are in good time periods of the day. I just need to wake up a little early. Doesn't affect much for me,” said Tien-Wei Ho, currently in San Francisco.

First-year student Tien-Wei Ho, based in San Francisco.

Although they have the option of attending class asynchronously, many students would rather stay up late to participate in live courses for more impactful learning  and to enable frequent interaction with teachers during the class.

We look forward to the time when the public health crisis changes and when international students can travel safely to New York for in-person classes.