Senior Takes On Fall Semester Over 8,000 Miles Away From FIU

The image above shows Rahul Mittal working through his online classes in Indore, India photo courtesy: Rahul Mittal

Audio story of Rahul Mittal, a student keeping up with classes in India amidst the pandemic.
Produced by: Elise Gregg for Roaring News

Elise Gregg/ Contributing Writer

This fall, many FIU students are learning completely online and have faced a variety of obstacles using remote learning.

However, Rahul Mittal is handling all of these same challenges from over 8,000 miles away. In his hometown of Indore, India, he encounters a variety of additional difficulties. 

Mittal, an honors student, and computer science major, hopes to return to Miami next semester, even if he has to remain online. However, Mittal’s current location has added to the challenge of online classes.

As with other students, Mittal is adjusting to online school. As a senior, most of his classes are counted towards his major in computer science and have only been offered online. Like many, he’s had Zoom classes almost every day.

But internet connectivity issues are common in India.

“One of the biggest hurdles learning remotely from India is proper access to the internet and just electricity in general, as compared to the [United States] where you are almost guaranteed proper access,” Mittal said.

His hometown endured heavy rains only a week before classes started, causing his electricity and internet to go out.

“I would love my classes to be in person or even hybrid…and I’m graduating in spring,” he said. “I don’t want to graduate from home.”

Aside from his unstable connection to classes, his time zone has also been an issue.

“The day starts for you at 9:00 a.m. Let’s say that would be 5:30 p.m. for me, and if the day ends for you at 5:00 p.m., then that would be like 2:30 a.m. for me,” said Mittal. 

“It’s like I’m studying all night, but then I still have responsibilities in the morning. I’m kind of booked all day.”

Mittal’s class schedule using Google calendar

Although he’s unable to participate in as many activities this semester, Mittal was deeply involved in campus life before the COVID-19 outbreak.

Throughout his first three years of college, he was a resident assistant in the Honors college residence at Parkview, crowned 2019 Homecoming Prince, participated in alternative breaks and Academy of Leaders, and served as president of both FIU’s Academic Success Initiative and Association for Computing Machinery.

Even in his freshman year, Mittal made sure to dive into campus life, joining the Sky Campus Happiness program, a yoga club that helped him connect with FIU as an international student.

“I think getting involved was the thing that put me apart from the crowd [and] have a better experience than just going to classes and coming back to my room,” explained Mittal.

Although Mittal says he misses some of his normal social life and on-campus learning, he also appreciates having a less crowded semester. While online, he plans to spend time with friends and family back home, do research, and apply for graduate school pursuing his master’s in computer science.

However, Mittal hasn’t let his semester at home become a disorganized one. He relies heavily on his to-do list and calendar and said Google calendar has been particularly helpful, as it allows students to set two different time zones to see time differences between South Florida and their location.

Mittal also focuses on communicating with his family, so they know his schedule and take time to recharge and connect with others.

“I make sure that once a week, maybe on the weekend, I do get on FaceTime with my friends,” he said, mentioning that he tries especially to keep in touch with fellow resident assistants and former Parkview residents.

He also goes cycling every morning to get out of the house and meditates in the morning to unwind.

Mittal encourages other students to take time management into their own hands, rest from school and work, and to continue being involved in FIU’s student life.

Although he’s been using much of his time to prepare to graduate, Mittal recommends staying active in-class activities, keeping in touch with friends, and finding organizations that offer Zoom meetings and activities.

“I think [students] would be missing out [on] a big part of what it means to be in college if you’re just taking classes,” he said.

Mittal also encourages fellow students to remain positive.

“Even with the world going through this, we are able to continue our education,” he said.

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