English Language Center (ELC) students have faced a number of changes since Georgetown’s transition to a distance learning environment in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Through all these challenges they have remained resilient, found consistency in their classes, and maintained a sense of normalcy due to the ongoing support of teachers, staff, and classmates.
Bobo Kim from South Korea, an Intensive English Program student since 2017 who will attend graduate school in the fall, worried about the transition for her classmates who were new to the program. “We are an amazing school. I really want to show them that Georgetown is awesome!”
Carolina Guajardo is one of those students. After years of planning to attend the Intensive English Program, she finally began her classes in early March. Just a few days later, Georgetown announced the transition to distance learning. Although it was initially disappointing, her professors were quick to act, teaching students how to use Zoom, making extra one-on-one appointments, and helping them move forward. Her teachers reassured her, “We are going to be fine, we are going to do this and get familiar with this.”
Bobo applauded her teachers’ work to support students during the transition, stating, “everyone feels uncomfortable and this is inconvenient, but teachers helped us accept this is a fact.”
While taking classes, Carolina decided to continue the program in her home country of Chile, staying motivated through class camaraderie. “Even though it was a shock for everyone that Thursday, I also saw how it started to work, how even when it was new for all of us, the spirit of continuing was impressive. You can also feel others by your side being honest to say ‘I don’t know how but we can do this.’”
She found that even across the distance, her classmates have maintained their personal connection in their Zoom classroom environment and group chats. “I can see how they are so happy when we see each other in the screen and say ‘Hi!’ and ‘How are you? What’s happening with you? Are you feeling ok?’ and I think it’s making our class get closer and more friendly.”
Carolina’s classmate, Abdulazez Alqhtani from Saudi Arabia, felt less motivated at first, but said his classmates were a vital part of his transition. He says that the class formed a group chat on WhatsApp that they use for support. “We try to help each other, and if I have any questions, they will answer me, if they have any questions we will answer them. We give some tips. We are close to each other.”
He found that adjusting his own routine has helped adapt to the new environment. “I am trying to manage my time and make a schedule, and do the homework, do something fun for myself because I need the burst of energy.”
Through this uncertain time, he has remained positive and hopeful. “Always, the beginning will be tough and hard, and we will figure out a way to solve the thing and make it go better,” said Abdulazez, “but it takes some time.”
Even while in Chile, Carolina has found consistency in her classes. “It changed the location, but it did not change the essential thing for everyone. And the essential worry for the teachers is that we are learning and we are. We are able to do that.”
Author Maddie Templeton is Student Services Coordinator & Administrative Assistant in the English Language Center.