The International Student’s Perspective on Life at Home

By Rohail Spear || Layout Assistant

Aryaa Ogale, a first-year at F&M, usually wakes up between 11 am and 1 pm and sometimes doesn’t go to bed until 5 am. Unlike us, however, she’s not watching Netflix until dawn. She’s doing homework to meet her morning deadline. By the end of the week, she’s “dead.” This is part of the nocturnal lifestyle that comes with being an F&M student living in Mumbai, India during the age of the pandemic.

As much as the rest of us feel cheated out of our experience at F&M, international students are among those who have suffered the worst. Almost midway through the second semester of her first year, Aryaa has “never stepped on campus,” and will not step on campus until next school year (hopefully). Having never visited in person, the only sense she has of the campus is through her Connections professor, Professor Fowler. “Every Friday he used to take us around campus like for half an hour of the class time… With his camera… He would tell us, ‘This is the dog park.’”

It should be noted that she and the rest of the international students in her class were not allowed to choose their Connections course: they were simply told by the College that they were required to take that designated Connections course, which was operating under international time zones. Not only that, Aryaa was only allowed to take one course during Module 1 and was forced to take a J-Term course to stay on track for graduation.

Online classes have served as Aryaa’s primary medium for social interaction: “Whatever communication I have is just… during the class time.” She has made some friends in her classes, but she admits that she “only texts them ‘Okay, what’s the homework for today?’ There’s only that much communication.” And that’s understandably so; building an intimate relationship with someone thousands of miles apart can be nearly impossible.

Fortunately, she isn’t too worried about making friends on campus in the fall. While she realizes that she will be behind her first-year peers in some ways, she is a part of the squash team and plans on playing when she is on campus. She also knows students through the Roshel College House Senate. “At least when I’m back I’ll be like ‘Oh, yeah, I see you. I know you.’” Unfortunately, joining any other club or organization soon proved impossible, as meetings are usually held during the evenings, which translates to early morning for Aryaa. Senate meetings, for example, take place at 2:30 am Monday for her. This time difference proved to be the case for other workshops, information sessions, online discussions, and other Zoom invitations that local students find in our inboxes: most of these meetings take place after 3 pm, which translates to after 1:30 am for Aryaa. “It was impossible for me to attend” any of them.  

In terms of staying connected to the campus, Aryaa admits that social media has helped her a lot. Without Instagram, she would have felt completely detached from F&M. Of course, social media does have its limits: “I only know what’s going on in Roshel College House: that’s it.” In addition, social media occasionally reminds her of what she’s missing out on: “I felt the worst when… the walk through the gate Lux et Lex was being streamed on Instagram. And I was like okay, I would have been there.”

After everything that Aryaa has been through, she is hopeful for the fall and eager to return. “I mean, I’ve just had too many [disappointments] right now. I was going to go in August and then January… just let me in.” Only time will tell if Aryaa, or any other international students for that matter, will get their wish.

First-year Rohail Spear is a layout assistant. His email is rspear@fandm.edu.

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