This school year has been a different experience for every student. However, the 2020–2021 school year has been particularly unique for international students taking BYU online classes abroad. Two McKay School students, Angel Huang and Franklin Konduah, have had varying challenges, as well as pleasant surprises, while living and studying in China and Ghana.
Huang is a first-year master’s student at the McKay School studying educational leadership in the educational policy track. She is currently in mainland China, which is 14 hours ahead of the Mountain Daylight Time of BYU’s campus. Conducting research and attending class have been difficult for Huang, because she does not have access to websites like Google, YouTube, and Facebook due to China’s internet policies.
However, studying from her home country has its upsides, as well. Huang’s professors have met with and assisted her outside of class. “The one-on-one time or office hours with Dr. Hilton are especially helpful,” says Huang. She also finds Dr. Hilton’s willingness to explain concepts, screen sharing, and adjusting cameras extremely helpful to her online class experience. In-person classes on BYU’s campus would likely not offer these same extra resources and experiences.
Konduah, is spending his first year as a graduate student studying educational policy in Kasoa, Ghana. In Ghana, work and everyday life have nearly returned to normal, so Konduah has a tough schedule working some late nights as the head of marketing for KAAF University College in Ghana and taking classes as late as eleven o’clock at night for his BYU graduate degree.
While studying in Ghana, Konduah has found that there is more diversity of thought and examples that can be applied during class discussions because he has current experience in another country to add to the class. Professor Geo-JaJa’s class has exemplified this: the experiences of students in the United States combine with Professor Geo-JaJa’s experience in Nigeria and Konduah’s experience in Ghana to create more interesting dialogue and applications in the class.
Konduah misses the opportunity to see professors and fellow students and make friends on BYU’s physical campus. He says “The opportunity to mingle . . . to network is very important for me. That’s one of the reasons why I love BYU. I love the social environment.” He is hoping to come to campus once more classes are held in person.
For Konduah, social interaction and networking are key components of a college education. The flexibility offered with online classes is not worth missing out on in-person connections. To the possibility of more online classes, Konduah’s reaction is, “I don’t want it.”
Writer: Savannah Nichols