The devil works hard, but Barry Yang ’21 works harder. As a high school senior, the last thing anyone expects you to be doing in the middle of the night is schoolwork. But for Yang and many other international students, this has become a new norm.
Many of us have experienced some form of distance learning, but very few of us have had to work around a major time difference. Now with the shift of daylight saving time, the Chinese international students are 13 hours ahead of those of us in the U.S. Eastern time zone. Yang is currently in Shenzhen, Guangdong, China. Everyday I walk into class tired and sick of school, but each time, when I look up and see him on the screen, he is almost always greeting everyone with a smile despite the fact that it is late into the night or very early in the morning where he is. So this week I touched base and asked him some questions about distance learning (DL), and this is what he had to say:
What is your schedule like every day?
It really varies depending on what day it is. There are usually two scenarios:
6 a.m.—wake up and write college essays and homework
In-Between: goof around
7 p.m.—1st class (we have a DL English class, so it meets Monday-Thursday before school—we love Ms. Howard)
1 a.m—end of lunch period and sleep
2:50 p.m.—wake up
7 p.m.—1st class & hw (yup)
3:30 a.m.—end of last period
3:30–5:30 a.m.—goof around
6 a.m.—perhaps get some work done before bed
When does everyone else in your house sleep?
Around midnight? My brother signs off at around 10 p.m., but apparently my parents stay up a bit longer.
When do you sleep?
I started the year staying up until 5:30 in the morning (so it’d be 5:30 p.m. in Chattanooga). Then I thought “heck yeah I can do this” and I kept going until 8 a.m.—there was a while when I went all the way to 10 a.m. But then my lack of sleep kind of started taking a toll on me, so now I try to sleep before 3:30 a.m. everyday, but it doesn’t always work.
What are some technical problems you have encountered doing distance learning?
Internet is the biggest problem to deal with here. Sometimes when the class is playing Kahoot and I try to join them from across the Pacific, I never get to answer the question that they are on. I have also spent an entire class looking at the PowerPoint trying to figure stuff out because the mic was not working; I ended up calling my teacher via the landline in her classroom after class to catch up. Some teachers also experience technological difficulties.
Time difference, for starters. Just about when you think you’ve handled it, there comes the daylight savings time. Staying up all night for months can have a really bad effect on one’s body, as everything is messed up. You face irregular sleep patterns, irregular dining patterns, etc.
Not being in-person is depressing, as you can hear your classmates chatting but you can’t join the conversation easily. And it’s my senior year, so it is sad not getting to be there at all.
Teachers are super lenient on due dates and some even offer classes outside of the normal schedule (like in the evenings when the time difference matches or over the weekends). Shout out to all the teachers who sacrifice their personal time to ensure the quality of our studying! They all tend to understand how being in DL could potentially be inconvenient, so they are all super nice to us (at least for me).
Hardest class through Zoom?
Orchestra—no one can hear me playing, and the delays are a really huge pain. Just imagine you are playing your instrument in front of your computer, and what you see doesn’t match with what you hear. Also, they get to play with the band together while I play and annoy the heck out of my neighbors.
Why do you attend classes you are not required to, like 3 a.m. classes?
Note: Students in China are not required to attend the afternoon classes from 1 a.m. -3:30 a.m .their time (now 2 a.m.- 4:30 a.m. with Daylight Savings).
We are responsible for the materials we miss after all, so I might as well get them over with. I guess watching the class recordings is just not playing nicely for me. It takes forever to load the recordings from China, and I’m not willing to pay for a faster VPN (that’s on me)... Also, I feel like it’s more effective if I’m attending a live session, as I feel like I participate more, and I get to ask questions immediately instead of waiting until the next day.
To your knowledge, do a lot of students stay awake past the lunch period or is that mostly just you?
I think the majority go to bed after the lunch period? However, I’m sure that I’m not the only one attending all classes. Now with the DST, I feel like no one would stay up until 4:30 a.m. for classes unless it is super-duper important.
Advice to other Zoom students?
Be nice to yourself, treat your body well, get up and walk around once in a while, get exercise or it’s gonna be a problem later, do not do work on your bed or you’ll pass out before you know it (at least for me), email your teachers if you don’t feel like making the deadline...
Any additional comments?
For those of you who are now joining the DL module due to forced quarantine: relax. It’s not really that bad. I get it—the first few days are gonna be tough, and you will probably want to go hang out with friends. Please don’t. It gets a lot better once you are used to the pace. Teachers give the folks on Zoom special attention, and I think it is a great chance for you to calm down, stay focused, and get some real work done to achieve a better academic performance. This is not the ideal time for physical social interactions, so why not take the time and get even better at your school work?