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The Quad: International Bruins reflect on distance, family after year of remote learning

(Nathan Koketsu/Daily Bruin)

By Joanna Wang

June 6, 2021 2:14 p.m.

As remote learning comes to an end, Bruins all around the world are looking forward to finally setting foot on campus this fall.

COVID-19 delayed many international Bruins’ plans to travel to the United States and explore UCLA, but it also brought about positive experiences that made studying outside of the U.S. more attractive.

First-year business economics student Kristy Guan said returning to China during COVID-19 made her feel safer.

“I feel like in China, you really don’t need to worry about who has COVID and who doesn’t, because everyone has this little code on their phone that shows if they are healthy or if they have contracted the virus,” Guan said.

Guan said she moved from the U.S. back to China at the beginning of the pandemic and appreciated China’s public transportation convenience, ability to rapidly control COVID-19 and the digital wallet for no-contact payments. Guan added that her experience in China also influenced her perspective for future paths.

“I still plan to study in the U.S. and have probably an internship in the U.S. but I’m shifting more towards coming back to China now. Especially with the opportunities presented, I see a lot more in China,” Guan said.

In contrast, first-year physics student Oscar Basuyaux said his remote learning experience helped confirm his desire to live in the U.S. long-term.

“I never saw myself (living) in France. I always saw myself living in the U.S. and I don’t think that’s going to change,” Basuyaux said. “Living at home for one more year just made me want to move to the U.S. even more.”

However, Basuyaux said looking back at his online experience last year, he realized there were parts of being abroad during the pandemic that were fortunate and exciting.

“I lived alone during the last couple of years of high school. But COVID just made it so that I was able to live with my family again,” Basuyaux said. “I think this past year is the year that I traveled the most ever … Family and travel were the two biggest perks.”

Similarly, Guan said she especially enjoyed reuniting with her family for traditional Chinese holidays.

“I have more time with my family because I got to spend Spring Festival and my birthday with my family this year,” Guan said. “That was insane. I haven’t been back for Spring Festival since 2014.”

For many international students, spending more time with family was an opportunity made possible by the pandemic that eased the difficulties of online learning. But for several students in the U.S. with families abroad, travel restrictions prevented their reunions and made them miss their families even more.

Second-year mathematics and economics student Polina Pranovich, who moved from Belarus to the U.S., said the pandemic disrupted her family visits, as she was unable to continue her yearly tradition of returning to Belarus in the summers.

(My) family is going through a lot right now because the situation in my home country is really bad with the politics and … COVID,” Pranovich said.

Pranovich said she now sets aside time every week to video chat with her grandma and stay in touch with her family, but still misses the in-person family barbeques and family trips. To recollect these memories, Pranovich added that she occasionally scrolls through her photo albums.

“Everyone was kind of doing their own thing. The dads would always be grilling or playing poker, cards or drinking beer, and then the kids are always playing badminton outside,” Pranovich said. “It’s just so much fun you know, so I’m super super excited to just be in that environment again and to look at everyone and be like, ‘Oh, this is my family.’”

Flexible schedules that came with the pandemic opened up more than just time for family. Basuyaux said that he has been to four countries with more time to travel this past year, and encountering such experiences furthered his desire to move to the U.S.

“I’m glad to be here (in Costa Rica). There’s a lot of stuff that I’ve been able to discover and a lot of new people I have been able to meet,” Basuyaux said. “But that again just makes me want to leave home and live somewhere else. I don’t want to live in Europe for the rest of my life.”

With campus reopening in the fall, international Bruins are ready to embark on their new journeys and embrace everything Los Angeles has to offer them. However, Guan said she still found joy in studying abroad during the pandemic.

“If it’s not because of the pandemic, I’m probably not going to be able to come back to China for such a long time,” Guan said. “I feel like the online school system is kind of interesting to see how many ways we can study and (how) we can manage our time more freely than at school.”

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Joanna Wang
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