SMC Freshman Takes “Remote” Learning to the Extreme

SMC Freshman Takes “Remote” Learning to the Extreme

During the Coronavirus pandemic, remote learning became an essential tool for students to continue their education.

While many students faced challenges with remote learning like slow internet connections and staying motivated to participate while being separated from classmates and professors, new SMC freshman Guy Vassoly had the added pressure of a seven-hour time difference and more than 6,200 miles of space between him and his professors.

“Guy’s commitment to his education was very impressive last semester,” said Kathleen Brown, associate provost for academic programs and one of Vassoly’s professors. “He truly took ownership of his situation and never let it stop him from successfully completing his coursework with excellence and positivity.”

Vassoly, an aspiring architect, had every intention of attending his first semester of college on campus, but that plan hit a big roadblock when he found himself stranded in Giv’atayim, Israel, a small city outside of Tel Aviv. Due to travel restrictions from the pandemic and a pending military commitment, he had to scramble to find a way not to miss the start of his freshman year.

“I felt an extreme importance in maintaining my studies instead of waiting for the spring semester for a number of reasons,” Vassoly said. “I wanted to capitalize on the momentum I had gained in high school. I also see an extreme importance in maintaining my life plan and continue my education, so I get my architecture degree as quickly as possible.”

So how did he find himself in this predicament?

Vassoly was born in Israel and moved to the United States with his family when he was two years old. He grew up in San Jose, Calif., attending school and planning his future education here in the U.S. until his family returned to Israel after he finished middle school.

“I always knew I wanted to return for college and planned on coming to the States in August,” he said.

After looking into a few colleges in California, his father, who had lived in Spartanburg for a time, recommended he look into schools in the area. On the recommendation of some of his father’s friends, he checked out SMC and decided that’s where he wanted to go.

A few things had to be overcome before that would happen. As an Israeli citizen, Vassoly was expected to serve a mandatory, two-year military service, which he applied to be released from so he could continue his education. There was also the challenge of the U.S. restricting foreign travel into the country.

When it became apparent that there was no way he was going to get to Spartanburg for the start of the fall semester, Vassoly jumped into action to make sure he could still attend school.

“He took the initiative in letting his PAC advisor know he would not be able to return to the U.S. by the start of the school year,” Brown said. “He did not let that interfere with his education.”

In fact, Vassoly jumped in full steam, taking five courses remotely, despite the challenges of a seven-hour time difference. Studying English, history, math, political science, and 3D design, he managed to maintain a 4.0 grade point average.

Vassoly credits the HyFlex model – which allows students to attend courses in person, remotely, or both –  for allowing him to work at his own pace and keep up with his studies.

Brown echoed his praise of HyFlex and pointed out this situation as a great argument in support.

“This is definitely a positive HyFlex situation,” she said. “We had a student who needed the flexibility of taking classes remotely. The HyFlex model allowed him to take any course he needed. This is an incredibly supportive model.”

As the fall semester came to a close, Vassoly’s future education plans were still in doubt. The Israeli government had not yet decided to waive his military commitment, so he potentially faced another semester of learning remotely.

“The process took far longer than anticipated because of changes to the system in response to COVID-19,” he said. “I ended up getting my release forms on January 13, and 48 hours later I was on a plane to the States.”

After a two-week quarantine, Vassoly has finally been able to fulfill his dream of going to college in the United States. He said, beyond studying in person, he is looking forward to participating in collegiate activities and contributing as much as he can to SMC.

The biggest thing he learned throughout his challenging semester was that he “can accomplish many things if I commit to them.”

Guy Vassoly
 Guy Vassoly in Israel (photo taken prior to the pandemic)

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