HARRISON HAMM, Special to The Denisonian—Under normal circumstances, Seyeong Hanlim, ‘23, a political science major from South Korea and Priyanshi Kanoria, ‘24, a communications major from India, would be experiencing the beginning of the semester like the rest of students on the Denison campus. They would be swiping their card at the dining halls and joining clubs. They would see professors and students in classrooms and around campus.

But as is apparent, these are not normal circumstances. Hanlim and Kanoria are like a number of other international students kept home due to the pandemic. Many feel Covid-19’s disruption of interpersonal connections on a deeper level, as they study in their homes, thousands of miles away from Granville.

The vast time difference is one of their most notable struggles. Hanlim lives in Ansan, South Korea, which operates thirteen hours ahead of the Eastern Standard Time Zone, and Kanoria is in Kolkata, India, nine and a half hours ahead. That they each knew the exact hour-difference off the top of their heads speaks volumes. Hanlim says she has to “memorize the time chart between Ohio and South Korea,” which proves to be a constant math puzzle, often resulting in late nights and early wake-ups, and can be found awake at 1 a.m. tuning into a class Zoom.

Hanlim and Kanoria acknowledge that their professors make an effort to accommodate for the time by posting recorded lectures, but asynchronous learning can’t replace the benefits of a teacher introducing the material in real time. Attending class before dawn does no favors to one’s sleep patterns, but watching replays of Zooms or reading directions on Notebowl is also not conducive to the learning process.

For Kanoria, “the key is communication,” citing an issue she resolved by simply speaking to the professor. “He devised a new plan that let me be involved more fully,” adding that “the professors are as new to this as we are, and we need to have mutual respect and understanding for each other, especially given the time difference!”
Furthermore, Hanlim noted that technical problems are common and create a barrier. Professors have various ways of involving remote students, whether through online discussions or Zoom breakout groups. But despite the many options, the experience “doesn’t feel interactive.”

Luckily, signs of community among remote international students have popped up, at least on a small-scale. While it’s difficult to make connections and meet people in these circumstances, Kanoria raves about the “covenant” formed by remote freshmen, through their shared predicament. She says there have been virtual student meetings, and she’s gotten to know people through social media. In addition Denison’s cultural groups connect students of the same nationality.

Eventually, these remote students will return, or arrive for the first time. No one is taking in-person school for granted anymore. Hanlim says that the biggest positive is the safety of her home in a time of crisis, though she did mention that Covid-19 cases are rising in Ansan–“stupid people everywhere,” she says.

Kanoria appreciates the efforts of everyone involved. “All it takes is one encouraging smile or one friendly wave. We are making history and it is our duty to make the best of it!”