A Luong Way From Home

After checking the time displayed on her device, 11 p.m., senior Stephanie Luong logs onto Google Classroom to attend school. After five hours of staring at a bright screen, she checks the time again — it’s four in the morning. To Luong, starting school near midnight, sleeping at dawn and waking up past noon are all routines that define her normal school-day schedule.

Luong and her family have resided in Singapore ever since schools were ordered to shut down in March. Following the COVID-19 pandemic, her father — who has been working in Singapore — felt that it would be safer for Luong and her family to travel to Singapore than to stay in America. Adjusting to Singapore wasn’t new for Luong, as she lived in Singapore for 10 years before returning to the U.S. in the summer of 2017. 

“We didn’t really think it made sense to go back [to Singapore] since we were going to be [learning] online anyway. Right now it’s a lot safer here, and I know it’s really bad in Walnut right now with the fires [and poor air quality],” Luong said. “Plus, my dad goes to work [in Singapore] so it’s just easier for everyone if we’re all in one place. We’ll probably be back whenever school starts [in person] again.”

Since Singapore Standard Time (SST) is 15 hours ahead of Pacific Daylight Time, Luong had to find a way to manage her schedule. In an effort to adapt to Walnut High School’s distance-learning schedule, she adopted a sleep schedule in which she would sleep from 4-8 a.m. SST on Monday (she has to attend virtual lab at 9 a.m.) and 4 a.m.-1 p.m. SST from Tuesday to Friday. 

“At first, [the experience] was a shock because I’m basically doing night school,” Luong said. “I’ve had to shift my whole schedule around, but honestly, it’s not that bad because I’ve gotten used to it. I feel like it’s sometimes better because I hate waking up early, and now I can wake up whenever I want as long as I do my homework on time. In some ways it’s better, but sometimes it’s overwhelming.”

The time zone difference has presented other problems to Luong. Tutorial, which is the designated time for students to seek direct help from their teachers, starts at approximately 4 a.m. SST for Luong, which clashes with her sleep schedule. This hinders her ability to actively seek help for her classes. Her teachers have been notified of her situation and have been more flexible with her workload and deadlines. Luong also finds it harder to contact her friends, but manages to stay in touch via social media.

“I miss the physical contact of talking to your friend or talking to your teachers,” Luong said. “You’re just kind of out of touch with everyone when you’re just looking at people through a screen.”

By Andrew Kim, Copy and Coverage Editor in Chief
Photo courtesy of  Stephanie Luong