After the World Health Organization’s (WHO) designation of the novel coronavirus as a pandemic on March 11, there have been many efforts to minimize the spread of the infection. Social distinctions were implemented, Companies made workers work from home, and universities across the world replaced face-to-face lectures with online lectures. The changed systems are alsoi confusing to people around the world.
However, in this chaos, Asian exchange students, who applied for overseas university exchange programs last semester, are especially struggling with the changes at universities and in society.
"Living in a foreign country, I am having great difficulty in adapting to the confusing society and the changes that have been made due to Covid-19.” A Korean student, who went to New Zealand for an exchange student program said that she is mainly having difficulties with two things in the Covid-19 situation: the changes in teaching methods, and racist behavior toward Asians.
Changes in teaching methods
“Currently, because of the outbreak of Covid-19 confined us to our homes and placed many restrictions on us, our learning and social life was conducted through the online lectures.” Seo-yeong Lee (Olivia Lee), who is an exchange student at Auckland University of Technology said that they are relying on Blackboard.
▲Olivia Lee’s black board screen (photo by Olivia Lee)
Blackboard Learn is an application for online teaching, learning, community building, and knowledge sharing. Blackboard Learn is often used to supplement traditional face-to-face courses. Students receive mobile updates about your courses, take assignments and tests, participate in discussions, launch Collaborate sessions, and view grades.
Olivia Lee is a student in the Communication Design Department, and she said that they take four online lectures for three hours in a day. “For the first hour we note down and listen to the lecturer and then for the other two hours we critique the process for the assignments. As a design student, we mostly get SDL, which is self-directed learning,” said Olivia
▲With Black Board, you can do a live lecture (photo by Olivia Lee)
When CUF asked her about the difficulties of online classes, Olivia said, “We have the advantage that we can be safe from the Covid-19 since we are having class without meeting with each other. However, the sudden introduction of an online education system makes it impossible to teach smoothly.” She said the biggest drawback is Wi-Fi problems. Unlike Korea, the internet connection in New Zealand is not good, so the Wi-Fi often cuts off, causing many problems during class.
Olivia also criticized the problem of online class saying, “You should remember that lots of students cannot take online classes because they do not have PC and there is a problem of the Internet. Students’ right to education should be guaranteed in any given situation.” According to the New York Times, 20 percent of American college students find it difficult to participate in online lectures. They were unable to listen to online lectures due to factors such as restricted use of data due to Internet pricing, non-PC possession. Particularly, the New York Times found that low-income people have a lot of difficulties so their right to education was not guaranteed.
Changes in people’s attitude to Asians
▲ An Asian student was assaulted by local youths in London (photo by Newsis)
The cases of racism related to Covid-19 also became the hardship for Asian exchange students’ life. Ever since the Covid-19 broke out in China, Asians who live in the U.S. and Europe are venting their anger by complaining of racial discrimination. According to the "COVID-19 Coronavirus Racism Incident Report Survey" jointly conducted by three groups - Asian Australian Alliance, University Arts Australia, and Democracy in Color - 81 percent of respondents said they experienced racism directly related to the Corona 19 pandemic.
New Zealand is no exception. New Zealand has the highest number of Asian racial discrimination events caused by Covid-19. According to New Zealand media on May 3, Meng Liu Foon, the chairman of the New Zealand Relations Commissioner, said that there was a significant increase in racism during the Corona 19 pandemic. Eighty-two of more than 250 reports related to racism were caused by the Covid-19 crisis.
Olivia said, during the initial outbreak of Covid-19, Asians who wore masks became the victim of violence. And after Covid-19 became worse, New Zealanders viewed Asians as diseases and treated them with hatred and discrimination. She shared her experience of segregation in New Zealand, saying that she never thought she would become the victim of segregation. Olivia said, “When I was heading to the mall for shopping, an old man and woman stared at me. I tried to ignore them, but suddenly they came to my side and cursed me out, calling me Covid-19. But the worst thing was that nobody helped me to get out of that situation. They were just looking.”
Unfortunately, not only New Zealand but also U.S.’ racial discrimination on Asian is getting serious. Another exchange student Seung-ho Kim, who lives in Michigan, also shared his experience on segregation in the U.S. He said that he was with his Chinese friend, wearing masks, and went to the university library to borrow some books. However, three Americans suddenly came to them and punched their faces. They tried to solve the problem through conversation at first, but they found out that those Americans were intent on using violence against them because they were Asians.
Then Why the exchange students are not returning their home country despite these difficulties?
▼Survey for asking the exchange students whether to return their home country or not (source=Education Media group)
According to the Education Media Group’s survey, only 37.7% of students said that they are planning to return to their home country earlier because of COVID-19. Other 36.3% of students said they are not going back to their home country earlier, and 26% of students said they did not decide whether to go back or not. The reasons why students hesitate to return home are as follows. First, students who applied for the exchange student program for one year said that they were worried that they would not be able to enter the country because of the foreign entry deadline in next semester. They also said that they could not return to Korea because of problems such as residence contracts.
Since the treatment for COVID-19 has yet been given, the chaos in society caused by the virus will continue for a long time. At a time when efforts are needed between countries to minimize this confusion and protect each people, there is a constant violation of exchange students' right to education and discrimination against Asians. In response, an official of the Korean Ministry of Education requested cooperation through diplomatic authorities to prevent its citizens from being disadvantaged by the country.
The problems that exchange students are suffering within the COVID-19 situation is not just a matter of one country, but also a problem of the world. Therefore, efforts should be made to improve the nation's public awareness, including campaigns that can improve discrimination.