Op-ed: In-person learning brings pluses, struggles


Quillan Anderson

International students going from online to in-person learning face many advantages and disadvantages.

Priyanka Salla, contributor

I am an international student who decided to pursue my dream of getting my master’s degree during the COVID-19 pandemic from Northeastern University. There were challenges and uncertainties, yet one thing was certain, and that was my determination to give my best and reach my goal. 

The first major challenge that I came across was getting my visa to study in the United States. Being an international student from India, I had to get my F1-Visa. However, with COVID-19 cases rising exponentially in the United States when the pandemic first began, there were travel restrictions. In addition, the U.S. consulates in India were all closed and, even in the rare chance that a consulate was open, getting an appointment for a visa interview was extremely difficult. As such, I decided to start my first semester remotely using the hybrid NUFlex system.

The challenges didn’t stop there — I had to tackle time zone differences, which created a communication gap between students and educators. Having said that, I must say the faculty members at Northeastern did their best to arrange exam schedules according to the different time zones.

One thing I was fascinated by was Canvas, specifically its dashboard. Canvas has amazing features like timely reminders, schedules, syllabuses, announcements, Panopto and grades — everything was at the tips of my fingers. Another thing I want to highlight was the tech support team. Many times while logging into Canvas or Zoom I faced quite a few technical difficulties, but the technical support team at Northeastern did their best to resolve my problems almost instantaneously. 

Some of the benefits of online learning were a flexible schedule, a more comfortable learning environment and getting the time to be with family, but online learning challenges you with many unique responsibilities. As such the benefits of in-person learning outweighs online learning and thankfully I was able to make it to the states in fall 2021 when many COVID-19 restrictions were lifted, at least for the international students.

It is true that studying online requires more self-discipline and time management skills, as you spend a lot of time on your own without someone physically close to keep you focused on deadlines. Look at it this way: your online course will not only teach you about your coursework, but it will also help you become more self motivated, a trait that will make you stand out in the workplace and beyond. Self motivation can help you develop a drive and determination to complete various tasks and goals throughout the workday. If you display high levels of self-discipline within the workplace, it will become noticeable that you’re achieving more goals and are working harder to succeed. Plus, it will look great on your resume.

One major disappointment I faced during my semester online had to do with the co-op program which requires international students to meet the minimum length requirement, one academic year, or its equivalent, and obtain proper authorization from the Office of Global Services before engaging in co-op. If this criterion had been changed, at least for the resilient entering class of fall 2020, it would have been great. However, I had to accept the fact that no amendments were made and so I started preparing for my next steps: searching and booking a slot for my visa. I tried booking a slot and luckily, I got one. To my amusement, on the day of my visa interview, instead of being nervous I felt very confident. I woke up early and headed towards the consulate and it went really great. I was overjoyed when the visa officer congratulated me on getting my visa approved.

Another drawback of online studies was missing the fun of in-person college, the full-fledged fantastic events and networking with people from different backgrounds. Thankfully, I am able to experience everything now as I have finally reached my destination. All in all, I must say that fierce determination is all you need to achieve anything and everything in life.

Priyanka Salla is a second-year pharmaceutical sciences major. She can be reached at [email protected]