Photo Credit: Minami Matsuzaki
As most classes remain online, many students have chosen to study from their countries this Fall semester. Some by option and others by not being able to return to the U.S.
Minami Matsuzaki started her Associate in Arts degree in January of this year at Valencia College, but since June, she has been in Tokyo, Japan with her family. “I was living with two family members over the age of 60 in the U.S., and I am currently living with my mother who is over the age of 60, and two siblings who have health issues. Although I have been safe throughout COVID-19, I have always been cautious because I am worried about my family members,” Matsuzaki said.
Tokyo is 13 hours ahead of Florida. When the day starts here, it is time for Matsuzaki to go to bed, or sometimes, attend Zoom meetings. “I have not faced major problems, but because of the time difference, I get confused about some deadlines, and I also have a hard time joining the Zoom classes, so I usually attend Zoom meetings between 1 a.m. and 2 a.m.,” she added.
Despite having flights from Japan to the U.S., Matsuzaki prefers to wait a little longer to return to Florida. “I am planning on going back on November 5, but I may move it forward or backward depending on the situation in the U.S.,” Matsuzaki said.
Denise Milanesi Po, an international student majoring in Bakery and Pastry, it is also far from the United States. “I decided to return to Brazil at the beginning of the pandemic. I left my cats in Florida with my cousins. I miss them so much, I didn’t expect to be away so long.”
Since May 29, flights from Brazil are restricted to students with an F1 visa, but she did not expect this to happen. “I’ve been in Brazil since March 17. I decided to come to Brazil because I was alone in the U.S. My husband is a doctor and he was very worried about me. I thought about finishing the spring here and enjoying the summer vacation with my family, but so far I haven’t been able to return,” Denise said.
Matheus Dos Santos Silva, a Nursing major, has also been in Brazil since the beginning of the pandemic. He does not intend to return to the U.S. until classes are in person again. “I prefer to be close to my family during this time of uncertainty. Financially, it is also advantageous because the dollar is very expensive for Brazilians,” Silva said.
To facilitate and offer all the necessary support, the International Students Services office transitioned to virtual advising — offering a different form of interaction due to COVID-19 forcing Valencia student services to go online. It can be via a Zoom meeting, virtual walk-in hours, or by scheduling an appointment. “We work to accommodate students in different time zones by adjusting our Zoom advising availability on a case-by-case basis,” Marieta Chemishanova, director of the International Students Services office said. “We often respond to emails on nights and weekends and correspond with them on social media to answer their questions,” Chemishanova added.