The research aims to explore ways of improving adaptability of international first-year university students based on the experience of making the transition from face-to-face learning to various online platforms during the nationwide pandemic lockdown in Russia in spring 2020. The research purpose is to analyze various sociocultural, technical and other challenges faced by international students after the one-day seamless transition to remote learning and their impact on the attendance record, motivation, academic performance and other quantitative and qualitative data. The research topic relevance is determined by the substantial rise in popularity of online learning, which had been demonstrating exponential growth even prior to the events of 2020, which further accelerated its expansion. The research methods integrate theoretical analysis of the current trends in online learning and its evolution as well as the strengths, weaknesses, threats and opportunities analysis. Statistical data was collected and processed using the University's digital ecosystem. The research data includes the results of the survey consisting of multiple-choice, single-choice and open-end questions, interviews with the students as well as the faculty and the background material. The research sample includes international first-year students from 12 countries with CEFR levels of the Russian language proficiency ranging from A1 to B1. The research findings show that the speed of adaptation to online learning depends on various psychological and technological factors as well as the students’ learning abilities. The findings lead to the conclusion that despite the efforts of the faculty to make this process a seamless one, some factors lie beyond its reach, which makes neutralizing the disadvantages of remote teaching time-consuming. The research results demonstrate the potential ways of improving online learning for all parties concerned by implementing such features as risk management plans, knowledge bases, focusing on making the content user-friendly and introducing other various quality-of-life improvements. © 2020, Association for Social Studies Educa. All rights reserved.