Hannah Rosenberg / Sun Assistant Photography Editor

A student takes notes during a Zoom online class.

February 11, 2021

International Students Juggle Nocturnal Class and Exam Schedules

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As many students complain of Zoom fatigue during Cornell’s third hybrid semester, international students have taken on the most hectic schedules, taking lectures and exams nocturnally.

But the biggest obstacle international students currently face is navigating the time zone differences between their home countries and Ithaca. 

Despite the University mandate that classes for international students be scheduled at any time between 8 a.m. and 10:30 p.m., these students have found themselves with nearly identical schedules to on-campus students.

“I essentially had to flip my schedule completely and become nocturnal, which was not fun,” said Divya Raina ’24, a student from Dubai whose spring semester will be her first in-person semester. 

Although some classes offered discussion sections at more accomodating times, many international students found those sections quickly filling up with students based in the U.S., according to Divya Damodaran ’23, who spent the fall semester at her hometown in India.

For this semester, many students living abroad hope professors will be more lenient about attending discussion sections, and that the University will implement higher enrollment caps for online lectures and sections.

“We’re getting what we absolutely need, but we’re not getting nearly the same variety of choice that we had before,” Damodaran said.

International students expressed a desire for virtual lectures this semester to be more interactive, as many said they became easily distracted and experienced Zoom fatigue during the fall. 

Raina said the fully virtual course load made her feel like she was taking courses on Coursera, a popular online course provider.

Nicolás Oriol Guerra ’21, an exchange student from Spain, suggested de-emphasizing exams, and instead focusing on collaborative work to allow students to bond and learn from each other. 

“By increasing the amount of small projects or collaborative homework, which is what some [professors] did, you give students opportunities to interact with each other,” Guerra said.

Some students said they felt as if professors ineffectively enforced the new exam accommodations.

Some of these accommodations included offering exam time slots that were convenient for international students, but it was difficult to provide convenient time slots for students in all time zones. By the second round of prelims, Raina said she adapted her sleep schedule so she could take exams during the designated time slot for non-international students.

Many international students said that professors should open exams for a 24-hour period to give them greater flexibility. 

But some students said they thought most faculty members and teaching assistants were largely accommodating, as many were generous with granting extensions for assignments and not penalizing them for turning in assignments late.

Grace Xia ’24, a first-year who has spent the past year at a Study Away site in China, hopes to come to campus for the first time in fall 2021.

“I dreamed of going to campus some days ago,” Xia said, “I was so excited, I was almost going to cry.”