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International Athletes Struggle with Time Difference

COVID-19 has had many effects on Americans, from having to stay at home more often to masks being the new social norm to keeping your distance from others. One thing that was an unforeseen effect by the pandemic was its impact on Drake University international student athletes who are taking classes online while remaining abroad.

Maria Tatarnikova, a senior women’s tennis player for Drake is taking her online classes in Poland. She said that international student athletes were given the opportunity by the NCAA to stay at home if they felt uncomfortable traveling to the U.S. 

I feel more safe here [in Poland],” Tatarnikova said. “Plus [my tennis] coach was supportive in this case.”

Kendra Hossain-Morehead, director of Drake’s International Student and Scholar Services, said that each international student’s path is different so the work they do with students abroad is personalized. She also mentioned that the ISSS did implement a couple of initiatives to offer support for students taking classes overseas.

According to Hossain-Morehead, before classes started in August, ISSS held its first-ever Virtual International Student Orientation. 

In the student orientation topics such as F-1 visa regulation, an overview of Drake’s campus culture and what to expect with classes whether online or in-person were discussed.

First-year students were also put in remote First Year Seminar classes as well as a specific virtual Bulldog Foundations class that is taught by Hossain-Morehead.

Classes are going pretty good so far,” Tatarnikova said. “But there are some disadvantages [to] not being in person, but I would say being online has more advantages.”

According to Tatarnikova, some disadvantages from taking classes at home and online are that she “can’t get live feedback” from professors, she has to “ask many questions via email” and that “small group assignments are not the same as in person”

However, Tatarnikova has enjoyed that she can build her own schedule and do assignments at her own pace. She also likes that it is easier to listen to lectures because she can watch the lectures over again.

International students were also given a mentor (IMAC) who answered any questions they had about life at Drake, what the first semester is like, and other questions.

While some international students have found the time difference difficult to deal with, Tatarnikova didn’t as she said she is a “morning person” and is more “productive” in the mornings.

For one of my [classes] I had to wake up at 3 a.m. but now [the] teacher [has] allowed me to do live activities offline, which was very nice of her,” Tatarnikova said.

Tatarnikova has also found each of her professors to be “super helpful and supportive, as well as the international office.” 

Tatarnikova says the only issue she has been dealing with is through the athletic department. She said the athletic department was thinking about cutting her scholarship for this semester as she is not coming to campus. Although it has been stressful to her, she is positive they will keep it.“Overall, I feel better at home,” Tatarnikova said. “I get to study a lot and be with my family safely because in the U.S. I [would be] completely alone.”


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