Returning study abroad students face time zone ‘curve’ in online classes

Anna Canizales

Editor’s note: This story is part of The Daily Texan’s coverage of how coronavirus concerns are affecting UT-Austin. Read the rest of our coverage here.

Students are waking up in the middle of the night to take courses online they were originally taking in another part of the world.

On March 12, the University announced all students studying abroad needed to return to the United States due to COVID-19 concerns. These returning students are still taking classes with their host universities online, and many are facing issues with time zone differences.

Radio-television-film sophomore Emily Ries was studying abroad in England and said she had to pack up, return home and switch to remote learning. She said some of her classes did not require attendance online, but one 5 a.m. class did.

“I would have to be online at 5 a.m., and it’s a three-hour-long class,” Ries said. “I completely slept through that (the other day). There’s no way I’m gonna be up for a 5 a.m. course.”

Ries said her host university has been understanding and accommodating, but she said she has received conflicting information from the universities.

“Ultimately, it’s my grades that matter at UT, and that’s up in the air,” Ries said.

Jackson Borrowman, a management information systems sophomore, said he was studying in Singapore and now he has meetings and exams in the middle of the night. 

“Trying to participate in a class … when you’re usually in bed at that time is a little different,” Borrowman said. 

He said the University told study abroad students they are just going to have to plan to take exams at odd times.

Borrowman said all of his lectures in Singapore moved online by February because of the outbreak in Asia. He has been taking online classes at home since March 20. 

“It’s definitely more difficult to be focused when you’re watching online lectures in the comfort of your home,” Borrowman said. 

Communications and leadership sophomore Katherine Shumaker said she was studying in Australia and came home around March 16. She said there is a 15-hour time difference between Melbourne and Texas, so all of her due dates are almost a day earlier now.

“It throws another curve into trying to figure out online classes,” Shumaker said. “I had to sit down with my class schedule and figure out what that meant for Texas. I have school from Sunday to Thursday rather than Monday through Friday.” 

Shumaker said although her class schedule and assignment dates have changed drastically, all live classes are optional and her host university has been very accommodating and flexible.

“Ultimately, it’s better that I am home because I wouldn’t want to be in lockdown in such an unfamiliar place,” she said. “It’s not an ideal situation, but as long as there’s some empathy from the host university and UT, we’ll make it through.”