When the COVID-19 pandemic hit the country of Nicaragua, Javier Arana ’24 feared that he would be unable to attend Saint Joseph’s for his freshman fall semester; all flights out of Nicaragua had been canceled. But when the University announced they would be offering classes in a variety of formats including online instruction, Arana was relieved to learn he would still be able to attend St. Joe’s from his home in Nicaragua.
“My intention was always to be on campus,” Arana explains. It was one of the reasons he decided on St. Joe’s. “I liked the campus, and I was impressed with their academics. And the school’s values aligned with my family’s.”
Arana grew up in Nicaragua and attended a bilingual high school where he learned English. It was there that he first heard about St. Joe’s, when a representative from the University came to a college fair at his school.
“I met with the representative, and we talked a lot about St. Joe’s business program. I was really interested in marketing at the time, so the school stayed on my radar when I was looking at colleges.”
Most of the universities he was considering were in the U.S. “I’d been to the United States a few times, but I wanted to go to a place I didn’t know.” He says he’d been to Miami, New York City, and Washington, D.C. — all during the summer months. “I wanted to get to experience all four seasons,” he says.
Although the business intelligence and analytics major has yet to set foot on campus, he has been able to meet his classmates and professors virtually. A few of his classes are fully online, and two are hybrid — where half of the class is in-person while the other half is on Zoom, with the groups switching every other day. Arana is on Zoom full-time. Some of his classes are asynchronous, which means he meets with his teacher and does work apart from class, later meeting up with the rest of his classmates for Zoom sessions.
Through these interactions, Arana has experienced a few cultural surprises, such as netiquette, or the acceptable way of communicating on the internet.
“Nicaragua is a very conservative country,” Arana explains. “Everyone knows everyone, so when you go out, you have to dress up and look nice. For my first day of class, I was dressed up and made myself look nice, and then I saw people in their hoodies and in their beds. It was a culture shock! It made me think maybe I didn’t have to try so hard.”
Daylight saving time was also an unpleasant surprise. Nicaragua is two hours behind Philadelphia, but after the clocks switched back, it was only one hour behind the U.S. “I got into the Zoom room an hour early, and no one else was there!”