Just when Nepali students thought 2020 was going to be their year, the coronavirus happened. Preparing to go overseas for higher studies, they have all been left in a lurch, uncertain about their future.
Like millions of other students around the world who had been enrolled for the new academic year in August, Nepali students fear they have to put their dreams on hold. The lockdown in Nepal, an indefinite ban on flights and uncertainty about whether universities will open physically or not, 2020 looks bleak.
Arjun Bhattarai has got a scholarship to study liberal arts as an undergraduate at Harvard University. Since receiving an acceptance offer, the teenager’s excitement has turned into doubt.
“I received my admission decision in late March, and I was working on my I20, applying for a visa and getting documents ready, but because of the pandemic everything is shut down,” said Bhattarai from his hometown Nawalparasi, where he is stuck because of the lockdown.
Nepali students abroad in pandemic limbo, Sanghamitra Subba
Sanghamitra Subba who was on a gap year after graduating from school in Nepal, was looking forward to pursue her Bachelors’ degree in Rochester, New York later this year. Her plans are also up in the air.
Numerous universities all over the world have already planned to postpone the academic session to January 2021, while others have gone online despite the time difference. Many US universities have given admitted students the option of a deferral.
Subba, who initially thought of deferring, is now considering to take online classes even if the time difference would be inconvenient. She says: “It will be quite challenging, especially considering that a lot of my classes will be discussion-based on Zoom.”
However, if the travel ban is lifted, both Subba and Bhattarai say they will plan to attending in-person class at their US universities.
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There are pros and cons of online classes, and a lot depends on the subjects the students are taking. Some demand more field and practical work, and these would be unsuitable for distance learning.
Even Nepali students already abroad, cannot physically attend classes because of movement restrictions. Shantosh Lamichhane who is a third-year student pursuing Bachelors in Electrical Engineering at Victoria University in Melbourne is finding it difficult to study from home and work at the same time.
“My subject requires me to be in the lab most of the time, so it is difficult to restrict myself to online work,” he explains. “I could have been more innovative with my classmates in the lab, and could explore more. Also it is unfair that I still have to pay full tuition fees.”
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In a bid to revive its in-person classes by September, Central European University in Vienna is trying its best to accommodate all incoming students focusing more on individual solutions. Austria has already eased its strict lockdown, and plans to welcome students with physical distancing and other precautions.
In a pre-orientation session in Zoom on Wednesday, József Laszlovszky, Director of the Cultural Heritage Studies Programme at Central European University confirmed to students that despite the ongoing global pandemic, the department will try to make classes more engaging online, and try to cut hourly lectures and initiate a creative way of learning to engage students from their home countries. Also, the university is open to accepting deferral looking at the global pandemic.
“We don’t know what will happen in the next few months, but physically, digitally and intellectually, we’ll try our best to help our students,” said Laszlovszky.
Migration certificate, Prakriti Kandel
Harvard University has also decided to resume its classes from the autumn, but is still weighing on the option of whether to do it online or in-person classes.
“All pre-orientation programmes were held online,” Bhattarai told Nepali Times. “All those sessions were conducted at around midnight or early morning in Nepal. The time difference is not so feasible.”
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