International students reflect on remote learning halfway across the world

From left to right: Eydís Kolbeinsdottír, Emileigh Stock, Athena Clayson and Lucy Davies pose for a photo while competing against the Cal Poly Mustangs on Jan. 11, 2020. (Credit: Anthony Randall)

Athena Clayson only had three days to pack her dorm and leave for Europe. 

Clayson, an international student majoring in media, communications, and journalism (MCJ), wanted to avoid the pandemic in California. She also wanted to avoid being alone without roommates. Now safe, staying with family in Liverpool, England, Clayson is facing difficulties while studying abroad. 

On Sept. 10, Fresno State revealed that virtual instruction will continue through spring 2021. This means troubling time zone differences will remain consistent for those currently studying abroad. 

Clayson’s morning classes in the U.S. are now viewed during the evening. The 8-hour time difference also makes it difficult to meet with classmates for projects. More often than not, Clayson finds herself studying and working with peers during her bedtime. 

Despite not being in Fresno, Clayson, who is also a university swimmer and diver, remains motivated. She finds the love and care from family as strength to persevere through this difficult time. 

“What is keeping me motivated at this time is my teammates, coaches, friends and family,” Clayson said. “They are the most important people in my life and I would be nowhere without them. I am very grateful to them for everything they have helped me with throughout this difficult time.” 

According to the university’s International Office, census data has revealed that Fresno State currently has 525 international students. The number of those currently studying abroad remains unknown at this time. 

The Collegian reached out to the International Office for an exact number but has yet to receive a response.

Fresno State junior Mariona Segales Ylla, another international student, flew home to Spain where she too is facing the difficulties of studying abroad. 

Segales Ylla, who says she would rather be in Fresno than Spain, left for home in early March and has been there ever since. 

She is also undecided as to when she plans to return to Fresno. 

Her decision to leave town — ultimately separating herself from both friends and the university — was a difficult one to make. 

“I was not sure about when I was going to come back, and because at first when they put classes online they said the final exams would be in person,” Segales Ylla said.

Segales Ylla, much like Clayson, is a student-athlete at Fresno State. She plays for the university’s soccer team. Although she enjoys spending time with family in Spain, Segales Ylla said she’s ready to come back to Fresno. 

“I need to go back to the U.S. and get my life back as before, because I am getting a little tired of being home and not really doing anything since school is online and I have to practice on my own,” Segales Ylla said. 

Like Clayson, she is also finding it difficult to keep up with her studies since Spain has a nine-hour time difference from California. Segales Ylla now has to attend classes between 10 p.m. and 2 a.m. 

For students who are facing challenges studying abroad, Segales Ylla shared a tip to work around respective time differences and other obstacles. 

“My advice for others in the same position would be to try to keep the school work done as soon as possible and not wait till the last minute,” she said. “Get a planner and write down all the things that are due.” 

Clayson shared similar advice, noting the importance of being organized and staying positive.

“There are always swings and roundabouts in every situation,” she said, “and it is about being organized and staying positive. Things will soon reach a new normal and we must adapt and stay optimistic until then.” 

International students in need of help or have concerns can reach out to the university’s international office at 559-278-2782 or email

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