Lehigh partnered with several programs in China this year to provide first-year students with a remote experience. There are 37 first-year Chinese students currently enrolled in the Lehigh IES Abroad program in Shanghai and 32 students studying at universities in their home cities. (Chi Hang Chan/B&W Staff)

Shanghai-based students discuss hybrid learning experiences due to travel restrictions

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In order to support the Chinese student community at Lehigh throughout the pandemic, the university identified several partner programs in China to provide first-year students with a remote introductory experience.

Because U.S. consulates were closed in response to the pandemic, many first-year international students were unable to obtain student visas. Under such travel restrictions, many Chinese students were unable to come to Lehigh.

According to the Office of International Affairs, there are 37 first-year Chinese students currently enrolled in the Lehigh in Residence Program with IES Abroad in Shanghai. The Office of International Affairs also assisted an additional 32 students in studying from their home cities at Fudan University, Xi’an Jiaotong-Liverpool University and New York University-Shanghai. 

In order for students to earn sufficient credit hours to meet graduation requirements, Lehigh has implemented a hybrid learning strategy that combines online Lehigh classes with in person courses at local universities. This hybrid mode of learning has presented both opportunities and challenges for students.

The 12-hour difference between Beijing Standard Time and Eastern Standard Time serves as the biggest barrier for a lot of students.

Scott Chu, ‘24, is currently taking courses at both IES Shanghai and remotely at Lehigh. He said he has found himself having to stay awake through the night to take remote exams starting at 4 a.m.

Additionally, students have recognized the importance of time management, especially given the narrow window of overlapping daylight hours between China and the United States. 

“I learned how to manage my time from online classes,” Elise Sang, ‘24, said. “Before COVID-19, I procrastinated a lot, but because of the time difference I have had to manage my sleep time, my work time, and time with my friends.”

The time difference also makes communication difficult and inefficient for tasks like group projects. 

“After sending an email to my classmate at Lehigh, it takes three to four hours for me to get a response,” Chu said.

Aside from the challenges, the hybrid experience presents opportunities that would not have been otherwise possible.

Sang is currently only taking courses remotely at Lehigh, but was enrolled in IES Shanghai last semester. She said the ability to get to know other Lehigh students from China who are in the same situation as her was valuable.

“At least you have someone to talk to,” Sang said. “I got to know a lot of my friends and since it is a really difficult time right now. Knowing people from your college is a really good thing. You are not going to be as panicked about homework and tests.” 

Ariel Huang, ‘24, who is taking Lehigh courses remotely and is enrolled in IES Shanghai, had not previously had the experience of studying in China. Huang went to high school in the United States and attended an international middle school. 

“I didn’t have a lot of experience studying at a local college in China,” Huang said. “So if we (were) not in such a pandemic era, I think I would never have been able to experience college student life in China. For me to enjoy my college life in China is super cool.” 

Lehigh is planning to hold primarily in-person classes for the fall 2021 semester. Despite this, a number of students who are still having trouble obtaining visas may be forced to seek alternative solutions for another semester.  

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