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International students at VNU International School during Covid-19 pandemic: Bravely facing challenges
The year 2020 started with unexpected surprises. Covid-19 has disordered human life all around the world and is a challenge to all. Arriving in Vietnam in early February after the Lunar New Year holidays to enroll at VNU International School (VNU-IS), the first international students of the 2020-2021 school year had been made to live all by themselves, yet having interesting experiences in a new country.

The first step is always the hardest

The simple expectation of the international students is to go to school, meet and get acquainted with teachers and friends, experience the culture and lifestyle, and be immersed in the hustle and bustle of life in Hanoi. However, Covid-19 prevented them from doing so.

Student Oluwafemi David Olabrigbe from Nigeria said, "I came here all alone, bewildered and homesick. Hardly had I known anyone when I was kept in isolation".

Covid-19 makes it difficult for international students to meet teachers and friends

"Restaurants and cafes are closed; banking services are delayed. I find it difficult to be alone and have to manage to find places to buy necessities. My part-time job was also suspended", said Student Lee San from Korea.

As for student Ahmad Bill Jihadi from Indonesia, the biggest challenge facing Muslims is how to find Halal food and places to pray.

Among the VNU-IS international students coming from different cultures with their own beliefs and religions, there are Christians, others are Muslims; some have never set foot in their kitchens and some others can hardly speak any Vietnamese. For these students, adjusting to a new life in isolation is especially difficult.

Every cloud has a silver lining

By having decided to leave their homelands, families, friends to live and study in a new land, the international students are extremely courageous. That’s the reason why, Covid-19, though a real hardship, cannot discourage them.

Student Ahmad Bill Jihadi said, "I found online groups of Muslims living in Hanoi. We exchanged, talked and helped each other through the difficult times".

Every day, the students take online classes on Microsoft Office 365 platform. Online learning is still strange to most of them, but as Generation Z, highly responsive to technology, they do not encounter too many difficulties.

Student Oluwafemi confidently said, “Online classes are my favorite time because I feel connected to people; I can meet up with teachers and friends, so I don't feel lonely anymore".

International students’ posts on social media about online learning during Covid-19

"I think online learning is the most optimal method at the moment. I can study wherever I am or while doing anything. Especially, online learning helps students sharpen self-discipline. The teachers introduced us to various platforms and applications in the online learning process, which made the learning time very joyful”, said student Satyam.

Besides teaching online, VNU-IS is constantly updating and supporting students with services such as online library (on-site books shipping), providing 4G data packages to students, organizing online workshops. Some activities and competitions are still underway so that students do not miss anything without going to school.

"I’m taking part in a writing competition and online sports challenge organized by VNU-IS. I believe that these activities help the students feel that the isolation time is no longer boring", said excitedly student Lee San.

Slowing down life to appreciate time

When being asked how long they have not spent time for themselves, the international students gave the same answer: "Now I can". On the positive side, Covid-19 gives us the opportunity to slow down, to listen to our own bodies, to our minds to know what we are looking for, to better understand ourselves.

International students spreading positive messages.

"I spend time reading and observing every little thing going on around my daily life, which I have missed before. I talk to my family members more to understand them better. This is also the first time I’ve done my housework and practiced cooking", said student Lee San.

"I think this is the best time to learn or start something new. As an IT student, I learn more about Java programming online. Besides, I exercise at home more often because now I really understand that health is the most precious", said student Satyam.

The Covid-19 will eventually go away, but the past time can never come back. Facing a global pandemic with an optimistic attitude, the international students studying at VNU-IS are learning to response to actual conditions and turn challenges into opportunities. The worried, sad faces over the past two months can now smile brightly.

 Hoàng Quế - VNU Media
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