How to Prepare for Studying Online as an International Student


School? Online. Borders? Closed. Life? Way more complicated than last year.

Things have changed so much since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, but as an international student who may not be able to return to the country of your study, things are about to change even more. But don’t worry – we have some top tips to help you get prepared for the upcoming school year as an international student.

Make yourself a schedule based on when your classes are

If you’re in a different time zone, it can get confusing figuring out when all of your classes are, especially if the class time is only written as the school’s local time. Write out a schedule for your own time zone so that you don’t accidentally end up missing a class because you thought it happened 6 hours later! Pro Tip: Put your class schedule into your phone as a recurring weekly event. The time will be in your own time zone, eliminating any confusion.

Figure out your tests/quizzes in advance

Similarly, note down when your tests and quizzes are based on your own time zone so that you don’t accidentally sleep through them! Bonus: if you have a late-night quiz, prepare your sleep schedule a few days in advance so that you don’t accidentally sleep through it.

Make a friend in your class who can send you notes

With online delivery classes, it’s almost inevitable that you’ll end up missing a class or two throughout the semester, so it’s always a good idea to have a friend or study partner who can send you notes if you miss class one day (and vice versa). This is where mutual friends, or Facebook comes in handy! Ask around your friend group to see if they know anyone in your specific class. If not, there are so many group chats for specific classes that can easily be found through Facebook or other mobile apps. Reach out to someone – it’ll definitely come in handy one day!

Prepare your study area

If you’re someone who usually prefers to study outside of your home in libraries or cafes, it will inevitably be much more difficult to find places to study due to closures and mandated social distancing policies. So, it’s time to get good at studying from home.

Find a quiet and calm area in your house where you won’t be distracted or disrupted by excess noise. If you have a desk – great! If not, it might be a good idea to buy one, because you’re going to be spending a lot of time working at home. Avoid working on your bed at all costs – we know… the temptation to get all cozy and snuggly to do your work is real, but trust us, it will make you way less productive because your brain associates your bed with sleeping!

Arrange quiet hours with your family or housemates

Do you always study between 3 and 5pm? If possible, you can have a conversation with the people you live with and tell them that you would appreciate that they keep the noise level down to a minimum during those times so that you can focus better. Your family or housemates should respect that you have work to do, with limited places to do it, so it’s an important conversation to have early on.
If the people you live with refuse to keep the noise level down… it might be time to invest in a pair of good noise-cancelling headphones!

Adjust your deadlines for your local time

11:59pm Toronto time is way different than 11:59pm in London, or Mumbai, or Rio de Janeiro. Write down your local time deadline in advance to prevent yourself from accidentally submitting your paper or lab late! Contact your Professors or Teaching Assistants to let them know that you are in a different time zone

If you’re in a smaller class or tutorial, and you have a class that always happens at 3am your time, it’s probably a good idea to email your professor or teaching assistant at the beginning of the semester to let them know your situation. That way, if you accidentally fall asleep and miss a class or tutorial, you can let them know that it was because of extraneous circumstances. During these difficult times, people definitely have more compassion for other people’s situations, so your professor will hopefully understand!


We hope that these tips were helpful for getting prepared for school as an international student. Although this will definitely be a challenging year, remember that you’re not alone – everyone is going through similar struggles right now. But you’re strong, and smart, and motivated and we believe in you to get through it!

Stay tuned for more helpful tips, and good luck on your (virtual) school year!