Due to border closures, airline ticket prices and the risk that comes with travelling during a global pandemic, many of Kenyon’s international students were unable to study on campus this semester, despite the College’s invitation for them to do so.
Among these students is Dennis Frimpong ’24, a first-year student from the Ashanti Region in south Ghana who was unable to come to campus after his country’s border closures. Following two gap years, Frimpong was especially eager to start his first semester of college this fall and chose to enroll in courses remotely.
However, taking online classes has proved no easy task for Frimpong: He has encountered difficulty not only connecting to the internet, but also figuring out how to pay for a data plan. After reaching out to the Office of Financial Aid, the Dean of Academics, the Center for Global Engagement and Library and Information Services, he received few helpful answers.
“[International students] were told if we can’t afford some things on our own, like the cost of the internet, or accommodations, then students would have to defer until the spring semester,” Frimpong said. “We [decided] that we were going to find ways to get money for the internet cost and other stuff, which is quite tough.” Deferring was not ideal, so he set up a GoFundMe to help afford his internet.
Other students, like Mart Niehoff ’23, a native of Utrecht, Netherlands, didn’t feel comfortable being so far from home during a global pandemic. “I would feel a lot more comfortable being hospitalized in the Netherlands in a health system I know and a place where I am close to my family,” he said. Additionally, as a varsity swimmer, Niehoff has had more opportunities to compete and practice in the Netherlands than he would have under Kenyon’s cancelled competition season.
Time differences have been another major obstacle for international students studying remotely. Asmod Khakurel ’24, a first-year international student from Nepal, wakes up at 3 or 4 a.m. to attend classes and sleeps in the afternoon. “In a way, my life has been tossed around, and I haven’t been able to enjoy activities as usual,” Khakurel said.
Niehoff agreed that the time difference is a major challenge. “My Foundations (MATH 222) class meets from 8-9 p.m. my time. I come home from [swim] practice 30 minutes prior, [then] have to eat and focus for an hour after I woke up at 5 a.m. that same morning,” he said. Niehoff also finds that his schedule rarely overlaps with fellow Kenyon students, leaving him unable to connect with his peers.
Whether international students will be able to come to the U.S. next semester is still in question. For now, they are enjoying the connections they’ve built with one another and making the best of their difficult situations, while looking forward to studying on the Hill. “[I look forward to] meeting everyone again … as I’ve grown close to many of my teammates,” Niehoff said, “although I suspect many things — like sitting at a table with 20 people in the old side of Peirce [Dining Hall] — won’t be the same.”