Interconnections: Studying in COVID times - Vandana Kasimahanty

Hello, I’m from India. I’m in my final year of the Master’s degree in Global Development and Entrepreneurship. When I was looking for my options to study abroad, I got selected for a few universities in Italy, and among them there was also Ca’ Foscari. Besides the fact that Ca’ Foscari holds a high world rank in the economics department, the idea of living in Venice as a student excited me more. It was a good opportunity for me to explore and be part of the world heritage site and to experience a whole new lifestyle.

Did you stay in Venice during the lockdown period?

I share a private apartment with my friends who also study at Ca’ Foscari. This is located in Mestre, which is on the mainland, 10 minutes from Venice by train. Lockdown was announced around the end of February and at that moment I decided to stay back in Venice as it seemed the safest option for both me and my family back in India. I’m going to France on Double joint degree program from Ca’ Foscari, so I will be attending a.y 2020/2021 in Strasbourg, France.

How have you been staying in contact with Ca’ Foscari and how has Ca’ Foscari been staying in contact with you?

Nobody is familiar with this situation, there is no protocol to be followed in the beginning. University was in contact with constant e-mails, whether it be about development in situation or about classes and university campuses. There is also a Covid update space in the university website where we can find information regarding offices, classes, etc.

For me personally the ‘Student life in Venice’ instagram page is closest, as I work on it as a studen collaborator. I spent days creating content based on my experiences during lockdown, which kept me sane. We also got a good response from the current and prospective students.

What part of your student life did you miss the most?

Being an international student, social life is as important as my academic life. During the lockdown I felt like my routine had gone on a pause and without a structure. Despite this, we had our classes moved online, which is good, but doing project work with my colleagues without meeting them in person is the hardest thing for me. So, I definitely miss normality. 

It is not so different nowadays, but I can say I got used to this new normal and also to the fact that we can go out, access a few public places and parks by following the COVID precautionary rules.  

Was there something specific that helped you cope with the situation?

Even though I have been away from my family in a foreign country for over a year now, staying with other students who are going through a similar situation, brought us together. Most of the time we supported each other

Once I realised I’m not alone in this, there was no room for self-pity. I used to start my day early with some exercise and a very good breakfast, the rest of the day I used to spend working on my university work and connecting with my family. 

How do you think the COVID situation has changed, if at all, this generation of students?

When I talked to a few of my friends from different cultural backgrounds asking how COVID influenced them, I got some interesting yet similar answers. 

One big change is the way we socialize with our class. Before COVID we would mostly be with our own small groups in class, but now we care to socialize with everyone and develop a more patient attitude towards others.

There is also an identifiable change in the way we interact with and greet our close ones. We care about our grandparents and elderly and we are careful around them, which was not usual.

How would you describe your university experience in this new academic year?

I’m attending my new academic year in France on a ‘double joint degree program’ from Ca’ Foscari. Although the first semester is going to be all online, it is still exciting.  

What do you expect from the next few months?

Considering the changes in the traditional education system, to which I’m still adjusting, I expect it to be a smooth transition and to get it into the job market after my Master’s.

Rachele Svetlana BASSAN