By Christian Whitfield (Reporter ‘23) and Lavinia Wang (Reporter ‘22)
The hybrid program has been implemented at Friends’ Central, and the system seems to be working well for local students; the system, however, has different implications for international students. In order to really understand how online school is going for international students, we interviewed a few of them, as well as Katy Oh, the Coordinator of International Student Education and Programs.
Katy had many informative things to say. We began by asking her about communication with international students: “Consistent follow-ups and check-ins are critical. Whenever possible, we ensure that the communication is translated into their native language. In addition, we may offer small group Zoom meetings with our international families to answer questions, with the help of an interpreter.” It is comforting to hear how much the international students are supported. Katy described how her role has changed since virtual school began: “I connect regularly with the ISP (International Student Program) student leaders to brainstorm creative ways to build community and connect virtually.” Katy, additionally, sends frequent surveys out to the international students in order to further her understanding of their needs. Novel ways of cultivating community have really helped connect students, regardless of their physical distance.
Moving on to the international students' perspectives, Lavinia Wang wrote, “Since virtual FCS started, my life has changed a lot. The classes have started around 8:25 a.m EST and 8:25 p.m in China, which means school for the Chinese students starts at night. When I first started this ‘weird schedule,’ I was usually sleepy when I attended the third and the fourth classes. I went to bed around four o'clock in the morning and woke up around one o’clock in the afternoon. However, the teachers in our school are very thoughtful. They allow International students to be free and go to bed after twelve o'clock. In this way, I go to bed around 12:30 a.m and get up around 9:00 a.m. I usually do my homework for the rest of the morning, and if I can’t finish all the homework, I will use the afternoon to finish the rest of it. Alternatively, I usually spend my afternoon time with my family and my friends. I help cook dinner with my mom and watch shows with my family; however, I still feel more tired than having the ‘normal schedule,’ but my family always gives me comfort and I feel really beatific to stay with them. Meanwhile, I still really want to go back to school soon because I also miss my classmates and teachers!”
When asked about something that has gone well during virtual learning, 12th grader Twyla Zhang responded, “During virtual learning, I can clearly see teachers’ plans laid out in Canvas, and everything is organized, which I really feel comfortable with. Another thing is that teachers are all very understanding about the tech issues or other difficulties I have encountered.” Twyla said that the time zone difference has been the most difficult obstacle this year: “Even though we are allowed to not attend the classes after midnight, certain courses, such as English or language, that involve interactions, can be difficult to catch up in.” 10th grade student, Jasmine Zhang, was also asked about the time difference: “I go to bed much later than usual and I’ll need a longer sleeping time, and I’m so tired every day—but, I can spend more time with my family and my dog.” 9th grade student, Anna Deng, explained that “because of the time difference, it’s not very convenient to contact my teachers because I can’t get a reply immediately.”
Even Though the time zone has caused a few problems, all three students said that they are able to keep up with the school curriculum. The international students have amazing support from Katy Oh, and she will continue to work toward improving the international experience. As long as the lines of communication stay open, their hybrid-FCS experience will run as smoothly as possible..