Evianda Noka, a third-year Contemporary Communication student from Albania, is currently at Gordon College in the USA through the Erasmus exchange program. Due to the current pandemic situation, Gordon College in Boston, Massachusetts, where Evianda is studying transferred all the studies and communication online. With the situation changing rapidly, Evianda had to make a tough decision to stay in the USA until she can go back home. Evianda shared with us her experience of studying online, how the host university is adjusting to the situation, and her hopes for the near future.
Evianda, why did you decide to stay in the USA during the quarantine?
At the end of March, my host university communicated their decision to continue studies online, to all Gordon students, staff, and faculty. Since that time all of us have been communicating and studying remotely. Gordon College initially decided to transition into remote learning for three weeks with the hope that everyone would return to on-campus learning on April 13th, but unfortunately, that was not the case. Subsequently, I decided to contact the Albanian Embassy in the USA requesting to head home but all the flights had been canceled and Albania had already closed its borders.
How is the host university dealing with the situation?
As in other universities, during this time, we have been receiving numerous emails, aiming to efficiently and successfully walk us through a difficult situation. My professors are very understanding by providing flexible deadlines and offering support and encouragement to all students. Additionally, to make this process less stressful, the college is allowing students a pass/fail option, available only for this semester.
What has been the most difficult aspect of being a Study Abroad at this time?
I believe it depends a lot on the student, their perspective, and personality. For me, the first week was challenging as I was figuring out how to navigate through this new method of learning and living. Of course, it requires courage and patience but it has been worth it! I have truly enjoyed studying at Gordon. I have met so many people and created long-lasting memories, for which I am grateful!
What is your experience with the online classes?
As with most of the students around the world, the beginning of this process was more or less like an experiment, where I was trying my best to adjust and adhere well to all the guidelines and rules provided by the institution. It certainly is challenging as I have to constantly remind myself to keep up the good work despite the crises the world is currently undergoing. Of course, sometimes it feels as if Spring Break still is not over yet and sometimes tempts me to stay in bed a little bit longer than usual. However, I am still responsible for myself to move forward, and take advantage of this time to grow spiritually, intellectually, and personally.
What is one of the lessons you will take from this situation?
I have learned to be more intentional about my lifestyle on a daily basis. Sometimes we take things for granted, we wake up in the morning and decide to skip classes just because there is going to be a tomorrow to make it up. Some of us just feel reluctant to go to work and every day we choose that disheartened attitude as we complain to have been better resting at home. Today, as I look back, I wish I had at least said goodbye to the people I have worked with and friends I had met. I definitely miss going to classes, working, and just living my daily routine. However, there is definitely a chance now to reflect and realize that we are human beings, and we don’t control the outcomes and we cannot completely anticipate what the future holds. This situation served as a loud alarm clock to wake me up from the illusion that I get to make and plan my own life whenever I want. It has reminded me to just be humble, appreciate everything, and live in the present.
When and how are you planning to come back?
I have scheduled a flight on May 1st to head home to Albania, so I am just waiting to see if the borders will be open by then! My parents had to adjust to me staying in the USA as they realized there was no other option essentially. They have been very supportive all this time.
How do you feel about the overall situation?
It is very hard to anticipate where this whole virus is going to lead us, however, I am hopeful and optimistic that everything will work out for the glory of God. As a Christian, I am convicted to stay strong and remind myself every day about my foundations and what truly matters. I have already seen God working through this situation and this just makes me cry in joy and happiness.
What are your hopes for the next semester?
I hope to be back at LCC for my senior year. I am eager to start working on my thesis. I am also ready to meet my future residents since I will be a Resident Assistant next semester. I am enthusiastic to be sitting in the classrooms and excited to continue with Vox Pop and other projects. Mostly, I am impatiently waiting to hug many people!
How are you keeping in contact with LCC during this time?
I have been in contact with the Center for International Students (CIE). Inga Mikulėnė has been a great help by sending informative emails and responding very quickly to my messages. She has made everything less stressful and I really appreciate all of her effort and help! I have also been in contact with many LCC friends, staff, and faculty. I am thankful for all of them and for sending encouragement notes on a daily basis! I’m really proud of my home university as I see staff and faculty generously giving and caring by creating a very safe environment for everyone. I am so glad that even though far away I can attend chapel and other events and be encouraged by so many people. You all are doing great!