Interconnections: Studying in COVID times - Santiago Alarcón

I am from Medellin, Colombia. I am taking a Master’s degree in Languages and Literatures, and I am specialising in Iberian Studies. I think I can summarize the reasons why I chose Ca’ Foscari in three main ideas. The opportunity to study in Italy and in a historical place like Venice, the University and its very competitive study plan, and the career opportunities that you get after finishing a degree programme at Ca’ Foscari.

Did you stay in Venice during the lockdown period?

Yes, I chose to stay in Venice during the lockdown. In February, I decided not to take a flight before the lockdown in Italy to go back to Colombia. Instead, I chose to remain imagining that the situation was not going to be so bad. When I realized that we would be in lockdown for several weeks, I couldn’t retract my decision because all the international flights were canceled. For sure, it was a challenging period, but it helped me focus a lot on my studies. 

I decided to stay in Venice for this academic year and to attend the lessons in person. My main reason is that my experience at Ca’ Foscari relates to the city and the people and would not be the same if I were in Colombia attending online lessons.

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

Mainly, I knew about the situation and Ca’ Foscari updates through the official channels of the University: website, email, and social media. My primary contacts with the University have been some professors and other students. I felt that the professors were closest to the students and understood the different situations generated by the pandemic.

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

It was tough to be at home all day long. Although I am a person that enjoys being at home, it was challenging to handle all the aspects of my life - personal, academic, professional - in one room. I missed going to the library to study or to find some of my university friends for a coffee. I was very happy with online lessons; my professors quickly managed to adapt to the new online classes.

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

I discovered that my building has a terrace on the last floor; it was like finding the Holy Grail. Mainly, the terrace changed my daily routine. It allowed me to do some physical activity, but primarily to find a different place from my room. Simultaneously, the terrace became a place of social interaction for the people in the building and a place to read and study. The whole lockdown experience made me more aware of how I react in a different situation and of how important it is to change environment.

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

I think COVID made us more aware of our condition as humans. In January, nobody imagined that it was possible to be in lockdown for more than three months. One of the main changes that, for sure, this generation of students will suffer is the transition to the dual-mode system. We need to check the results of this semester; still, I believe that the COVID situation will be a turning point for more online education. At the same time, I think this new generation of students will struggle a lot in creating new social links and enjoying the university further than attending lessons.

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

I like it a lot. I believe that Ca’ Foscari put in place an excellent system that is fair and efficient. Still, I prefer to attend my lessons in person because it allows me to interact with other students. I believe that the dual-mode allows for a more inclusive educational experience. For people that cannot afford to come to university or that are unable to do so due to sanitary measures, it is perfect. Additionally, it will allow you to follow other 'virtual' courses that you wouldn't have been able to attend in a normal situation. 

What do you expect from the next few months?

I hope that the international situation starts getting better. COVID ruined all my plans for the summer with my parents and friends. I expect that international flights will go back to normality and allow me to fly back to Colombia, to my country, for some weeks. I have not seen my parents in more than one year. Moreover, the next months will be crucial to finish my exams and continue working on my thesis. 

Rachele Svetlana BASSAN