Experiences of students in China, Italy give a glimpse into ASL’s future

“For the first two weeks of online learning, the teachers just assigned all these tasks for us and we had to finish them by Friday. It was pretty simple. I was just ticking things off… I’ve done that, done that, done that. And then, they introduced these meetings online and I found that really difficult because all the students just go on audio speaker and, you know, it’s like you’re talking to no one. So yeah, that was pretty weird.”
– Ethan, eighth grader at Nanjing International School, China

While ASL is just starting its second week of distance learning, international schools in China and Italy have been closed for several weeks. Hearing what some of those students have experienced during their time doing distance learning might give ASL students an idea of what to expect in the weeks ahead.

Shanghai American School and Nanjing International School are both located in China, where the corona virus outbreak started. Students had their last day of school on February 4, not knowing that they would not return after the Chinese New Year break. Marymount International, Rome closed soon after in mid February, and H-International School Treviso in Italy closed in early March. 

Five out of eleven students from these four schools travelled out of the country where their school is when distance learning began. Ethan,* an eighth grader at Nanjing International School, went to Australia at the start of distance learning and has been there ever since. “We’re Australian citizens and the government said the best decision was to come home,” he said.

Estelle, an eighth grader at Shanghai American School, went to Sweden for the Chinese New Year break and did not return to China until two weeks ago. “While we were on vacation, the coronavirus started spreading, so we decided it was safest to return back to Sweden where we come from. But, then the virus started coming there and started spreading over Europe,” she said.

Distance learning is new for everyone at first, and schools in China were the first to adapt to closing schools. Kendall, a seventh grader at Shanghai American School, said, “I think it was a big step in a direction I wasn’t really comfortable with, but I think now there’s been a lot more communication with teachers and friends. I think my feelings have changed in the way that I have a more positive outlook on it.”

Even though these students have gone through several weeks of distance learning, some of them still struggle with being away from the regular classroom. Ethan said, “I do appreciate what the teachers are doing for us… but just personally I don’t like it. I’m an outside person. I love collaborating and things like that.”

Chloe, a ninth grader at Nanjing International School, said, “I think it’s okay, like it’s definitely not my favorite. Definitely not like going to school and going to normal classes, but I’ve done eight weeks of this now, and it’s all right.”

Each school is managing distance learning in a different way, using varying software and choosing whether to do synchronous or asynchronous learning. Some schools have set timetables and video chats for each lesson, whereas other schools have mainly individual work with occasional check-ins. 

Another thing schools are trying to manage is how to have assessments online. Gaia, a sixth grader at H-International Treviso in Italy said, “On the oral assessments we have to look at the teacher in the eye.” This is to make sure students are not looking at the information to the side of the screen and upholding academic honesty.

Students have varying opinions on online learning and what they prefer. Some students feel like the workload has increased, whereas others feel like the assignments have become easier. Isabella, a ninth grader at Nanjing International School, said, “(The assignments) are sort of more challenging, but I don’t think that teachers really understand that and how much work they’re actually giving us.”

Similarly, Cosmo, a sixth grader at H-International Treviso, said, “You have to put more commitment into your work.”

“Obviously there’s some flaws in the system and it’s not as smooth as regular learning. But, I feel like it’s a good opportunity to practice skills that you still practice in like real life. So you’ve obviously gotten better at adaptability, flexibility, communication, time management, and motivation.”
-Estelle, eighth grader at Shanghai American School

As time goes by, online learning becomes more and more normal as the transition period passes. Giulia, a sixth grader at H-International School Treviso, said, “When I first started, I couldn’t really understand, but now it’s normal to wake up and there’s lessons online.”

In addition to schools being closed, most countries have put restrictions on people leaving their homes. While most students don’t like being stuck at home away from their friends and activities, they understand the importance of following these government restrictions. Francesco, a sixth grader at H-International Treviso, said that everyone should do their best to stay at home because “this is an important thing, to stop this coronavirus.” 

A common piece of advice from the eleven international students is to be positive. Carola, a sixth grader at H-International School Treviso, said, “All the teachers are working so hard, they’re making the students happy, so you need to appreciate this. This is difficult for everyone and it is not our fault, and we need to have a positive attitude for everything.”

Another important piece of advice is to exercise and get outside whenever possible. Rosa, a seventh grader at Marymount International, Rome, said, “Whenever you have the chance, go off the computer and do something outside or do something that doesn’t involve any electronics, just to give your eyes a rest and just so you get some exercise and some fresh air.”

The right mindset will make the transition to online learning easier, said Chloe. “When I first went into online learning, and it still sometimes feels like this now, it feels like you’re just doing a lot of homework. And you kind of have to be like okay, it’s not homework. I’m going to get graded on it. You have to really put yourself in that mindset,” she said.


*To protect the privacy of students who do not attend ASL, The Scroll has agreed to publish only their first names, grade, and where they attend school.

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About Clara Martinez ('24)

News Editor (’24)

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